A Kentucky chef has opened a private dining club inside a three-story Victorian building and is hoping the concept will catch on with a new generation. So far, Chef Bill Hughes says about 280 families have joined the Cupola Club in Owensboro, Ky., and business has been good. “This has exceeded my expectations,” Hughes said.
With his latest endeavor, a Kentucky chef is hoping that a private dining club can still succeed.
Chef Bill Hughes of Owensboro, Ky. returned to his roots to bring the Cupola Club to life in the former Campbell Club building, where he came to Owensboro to work in 1989, the Evansville Courier & Press reported. He began taking applications for membership in February and has been serving for about a month.
“This has exceeded my expectations,” said Hughes of the new club. “I capped our membership at 500 and we’re at about 280 families now after a month. I may stop taking applications while people find their natural rhythm. Everybody wants to come out when a place is new, and we’ve had members who’ve been here six, seven, eight times in the first month. I did not anticipate how busy it is. We haven’t even done any big parties yet and this past Saturday we fed 120 people – they just kept coming.”
The Cupola Club resides in a three-story Victorian building, the Courier & Press reported. The rooms hold either a cluster of four-top tables or longer tables to seat a group of six to 16. The chairs are leather and comfortable, the carpets are soft, and the windows are tall. Heavy dated draperies have been removed to let in the light, and some touches of modern art brighten the mood, the Evansville Courier & Press reported. All paintings in the building are by local artists.
“It’s such a charming old building,” Hughes said. “When you walk in the front door you’re immediately disarmed. The old guard who were members of the Campbell Club in the past love it and are so excited to see it busy again. It’s got a lightness to it now.”
Hughes has successfully cleared one of the hurdles for a dining club: attracting a younger audience who has not grown up with the concept, the Courier & Press reported. He has many years as an Owensboro chef to thank for this, and the wide following he gained at his former Bill’s Restaurant.
“I would never work for a private club with a board of directors,” he said. “I’ve had a couple people come to me and suggest they be on the board because that’s how a private club works, but why would I want to have a board? I own the club and I’m the director, but I’m also smart enough to know that every person sitting in here eating is on ‘the board.’”
In addition to access to Hughes’ cooking, the perks of membership include retail sales of beer and wine that cost less than a liquor store, and the ability to order specialty meats, cheeses and seafood for home use, Courier & Press reported. Two banquet rooms upstairs are available to members with no rental fees.
“A member is known, and this is like their home,” Hughes said. “You’ll never be rushed out. I hate spending a decent amount of money somewhere and they slap that check down and say ‘no rush, no rush, do you want me to take it now?’ A member brought their daughters before a dance to take pictures in the building. What a great place for prom pictures. All that stuff.”