After two years of restrictions and social distancing, clubs are welcoming members back with redesigned bars and pubs.
Clubgoers have something to toast: a return to pre-pandemic club life—and that means enjoying a cocktail with friends. With a recent surge in membership sales and waitlists growing by the mile, more facilities are addressing the need for expanded amenities, particularly in the casual dining space. To help keep up with demand, these clubs demonstrate how an updated bar enhances the overall social scene.
Twice as Nice
At the West Bay Club in Estero, Fla., two bar overhauls in the last year have proven their worth. The January 2021 opening of the Signature Bar, followed by The Niblick last November, were part of a $20 million club-wide amenities-improvement project that incorporated member feedback. “The renovation task force, as well as the design committee, were both comprised of members that dictated renovation and design decisions,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Kaitlyn Schwab.
The Signature Bar, whose contemporary design incorporates tones similar to the club’s nature preserve surroundings, is awash in neutrals and bold blues, offset by warm brass metals and glass details. Blue velvet Juliette chairs, stationed opposite round brass cocktail tables, offer a convenient alternative to seating at the horseshoe-shaped bar. Ambient lighting from globe fixtures complements the white quartz and brass-trimmed counter and frosted glass encasing the hanging storage above the bar. Operable walls that open onto an outdoor terrace seek to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor.
“This new feature provides additional seating for events and banquets and ample opportunity to enjoy the surrounding vista, further enhancing the strong ties to the design concept,” explains Schwab. Installed with sound-abatement technology, the walls’ functionality extends to managing noise overflow from a busy dining facility.
The main design focal point of the Signature Bar, its wine wall, provides not only a strong visual, but a revenue-building stream for the member wine club. According to Schwab, the sold-out program yielded just under $30,000 in new member dues, not including the projected $70,000 in wine club member-only events. “The first four wine-purchasing events generated just over $25,000, and wine sales are up 325 percent,” she adds.
Also of note at the Signature Bar is the Member Spotlight plaque, which features a select member, accompanied by his or her photo, biography and signature drink featured on the menu. “It’s a great way to recognize our members, highlight their achievements and further facilitate the sense of community we have at our intimately-sized golf club,” says Schwab.
Signature’s success was carried over to The Niblick, a space that was transformed last November into a casual pub with modern accents. Schwab describes it as “a comfortable, casual social center for camaraderie, craft cocktails, cold beer and artisanal foods.” Furnished with warm wood finishes throughout, the bar boasts a speckled granite counter, herringbone subway tile and custom woodwork back bar. Ambient lighting from metal and brass fixtures illuminates the bustling space, while Eurodoors that open onto an outdoor patio provide instant vistas of West Bay’s 18-hole course.
With such a vibrant space that continues to attract newcomers, the Niblick’s Friday night happy hour has amassed 275 members on a weekly basis—nearly double the pre-renovation amount.
“The renovated space and its complementary concept has been lifted up by high-margin items, such as the club-made pizzas which currently represent nearly 28 percent of food sales,” says Schwab. The Niblick, along with the reconfigured Signature Bar, has boosted membership, with an increase in dues revenue of 16 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
A Place of Community
It only seems natural that member-owned Cleveland Country Club would orchestrate a renovated bar that would soon become a community destination. After the Shelby, N.C., facility was purchased in 2019 and a member survey indicated that a casual dining space and bar was on the top of their wish lists, construction got underway and was completed by September 2020.
To make the bar more accessible from its former tucked-away location, management opted for a restructured floor plan. “The old layout required the member or guest to wind through multiple rooms and then eventually come into the bar area,” says General Manager Allyson Kahl Darling. “We decided that it was important to open our walls, create an open floor plan and make the bar the centerpiece of the dining space.”
The new design also increased the bar’s occupancy from 10 to 24, with overflow seating provided by built-in high tops, community tables and deep-seated sofas. Large swivel bar stools sporting a rich walnut finish sit at a concrete quartz countertop, with back bar glass shelving that houses an extensive bourbon collection and built-in wine racks. Generously sized windows looking out to the golf course fill the room with natural light, helping to enhance the luster of the blue painted walls, pressed tin ceiling, leather and tweed fabrics and warm stained woods.
“The big picture windows have made a huge difference, as our members and guests are now treated to sweeping views of hole No. 18, the practice putting green, No. 10 tee and perhaps our greatest asset—the beautiful sunsets that are visible from almost every angle of the new clubhouse,” says Club President David R. Teddy.
Since the bar opened while the pandemic was still in full swing, the updated design lent itself well to social distancing. “In North Carolina, we were required to sit at 50 percent capacity,” says Darling, noting the benefits of the expanded layout and ample table space. “We also have a covered outdoor terrace adjacent to our bar area,” she adds. “Members were able to enjoy drinks and meals outdoors around the new firepits.”
The club has since broadened its wine offerings, bar specials and specialty bourbon collection in the revised digs. And with the addition of other social programs, F&B revenues have increased by 34 percent due in large part to the new bar.
With member usage on the rise and a direct uptick in private event programming, feedback about the new bar continues to propel the club forward. Member enthusiasm is so infectious, notes Teddy, it has carried over to the staff.
“I believe the new space has inspired a sense of pride in many of our long-time employees who have been with us through thick and thin,” he says. “I believe our hospitality team enjoys coming to work in the new space where a new heartbeat for our club is evident from the time we open, to the time we close.”
And as Cleveland Country Club gears up for its centennial celebration in 2027, members can rightfully raise a glass in their renovated digs—a place that Darling deems as “more than just a fixture; it is a place of community.”
Grabbing a Slice of Club Life
What was once an underutilized space at WeaverRidge Golf Club in Peoria, Ill., has since become a go-to hangout where golfers can grab a cold beer and some pizza, play a game of pool and practice their swing in the off season—all in one place. The aptly named Slice, which offers pizza, wings and other light fare in a sports-bar setting, opened in November 2021 and has since become a favorite spot for local golfers.
The casual eatery occupies a former ballroom that was primarily used for Sunday brunches and golf outing events. But, as General Manager Matt Rogers explains, once the pandemic took hold, the room sat virtually empty. “We were also looking at additional ways to raise revenue in the winter as our club is in a seasonal climate,” he says. “Our goal was to create a comfortable, laidback area for golfers to go after their rounds to have a cold beverage and be loud.”
While WeaverRidge did not employ a professional designer for this project, management orchestrated a series of changes to transform the ballroom. New waterproof flooring that can withstand heavy foot traffic—not to mention spilled beverages—was high on the agenda. A sound-proof ceiling helps to absorb noise coming from a secondary restaurant on the same clubhouse floor, as does the extra insulation in the walls separating the two restaurants.
To enhance Slice’s menu, the spot’s pub has been outfitted with two golf simulators, a pool table, dart board, shuffleboard and a gaming lounge. “It’s one of the largest in the Peoria area, allowing for extra space in between machines,” says Rogers of the gaming zone. During the pandemic, this additional real estate enabled social distancing.
Since its inception, Slice has created a strong revenue stream for WeaverRidge, especially in the off season. With very little overhead, the casual dining and rec spot has not only been a boon for regulars, but for neighbors as well. “One of our goals in creating Slice was to create offerings for our pass holders that were not available at the local private clubs,” notes Rogers. “We have now seen a large uptick in local private club members patronizing our club now.” C+RB