The expanded aquatic dining areas at Birmingham Country Club feature thoughtful, practical tabletops that welcome outdoor activity into the shoulder seasons.
While seeking to create an aquatic area reminiscent of resorts in South Florida, Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club (BCC) has added cabanas and soft seating around its pool over the past few seasons. But with Michigan’s much shorter warm season, the club wanted to add elements that would help the area extend into the shoulder seasons—especially the fall.
The solution has come in the form of a new two-story food-and-beverage outlet that BCC added as the final phase of an extensive $8 million capital improvement plan for the club’s golf course, clubhouse, and athletic facilities (“No Jacket Required,” C&RB, November 2016). The $1 million project saw both areas created over the winter of 2016 and spring of 2017. When they opened on Memorial Day of this year, members were welcomed to The Dive Bar, located on the lower level and featuring a nine-seat bar with table seating for approximately 36; and The High Dive, positioned on the second level as “essentially an observation deck with views of the pool, golf course, and grounds,”according to General Manager/Chief Operating Officer Joseph Basso, MCM, CCE.
Birmingham Country Club
Birmingham, Mich.Project cost: $1 million
Square Footage: 1,800 (The Dive Bar); 1,800 (The High Dive)
Furniture: Bar stools, dining tables and chairs made of wrought iron with a bronze finish by Woodward in Owosso, Mich.; side tables at The High Dive are teak
Flooring: Aggregate concrete (The Dive Bar); concrete tile (The High Dive)
Lighting: Overhead lighting from ceiling fans and recessed lighting above and behind bar (The Dive Bar); bistro lighting (The High Dive)
Because service at The Dive Bar is built for speed and family-casual dining, the tabletops are kept relatively simple, using roll-up flatware and a minimal center island of condiments, with the condiment holder designed as a miniature picnic table. As nights get cooler, the club adds tabletop heaters to help “extend the evening and usage during Michigan summers,” Basso says.
The Dive Bar is fenced off from the pool, to allow the club to extend dining after the pool closes each evening. To handle peak volume, however, foodservice can be extended to six octagonal, high-quality composite picnic tables that run along the perimeter of the fence on the pool side.
The High Dive has five soft-seating groupings where tray service is offered, with table seating for another 36. The area is adults-only, and is serviced by a portable satellite bar with a small-plates menu distributed from a one-man island station and pizza oven.
“The side tables feature drop-down trays that can be brought to the seating area and fit right over the existing table—a great feature to provide efficient table service and keep staffing at a minimum,” Basso says.
With the exception of the side tables at The High Dive, which are teak with a dark stain, the bar stools, dining tables and chairs are wrought-iron furniture. The finish is bronze, to match the surrounding color scheme of both areas.
“By keeping the table tops [especially at The High Dive] open, we start with a fresh palette, so to speak, and can provide event-specific centerpieces, as we did for a Night in Havana event earlier in the summer,” Basso says.
Given the two venues’ location, with both a distance from the main kitchen, the club found it important to offer one-way, single-use service items, using high-quality bamboo dinnerware in several sizes to accommodate presentation preferences.
An exception to that rule, Basso notes, is flatware and linen, which are fairly easy for staff to transport back to the main kitchen at the end of service. Additional items that are specific for presentation of salads and appetizers are made of composite materials that are returned to the kitchen for washing.
“We use glassware and bar coasters as branding opportunities throughout our club, and these areas are no different,” Basso says. “The coasters are logoed on each side with separate logos for The Dive Bar and The High Dive. In most cases, the logo is on the outside of the cup, with the presentation to the outside, [but] we placed our logo on the outside of the cup facing inward, so it is visible through the beverage [to the person drinking it]—our way of tying the bar to the aquatic area.”
At The High Dive, two pergolas currently provide some shade—but next season, BCC plans to add a retractable canvas canopy to provide even more respite from the sun. Already, though, member response to the outlets has been “overwhelming,” Basso reports, and the new locations are now the most popular food-and-beverage venues at the club.
With BCC’s resort area now complete, Basso notes that while The Dive Bar “could have been bigger,” the smaller area gives the feeling of popularity and activity. “No one likes to go to an empty bar or restaurant—perceived or otherwise,” he notes.