Maybe you’ve once gotten a bit of unpleasant news, and I’m thinking here of the passing of a friend. Your first reaction is that unfortunately you’re not surprised. Then you have a second and totally different reaction: You’re shocked.
That happened to me last week when I heard that the Regency Club was closing April 29.
My first reaction was that unfortunately I was not surprised. The Regency was like an old friend whose health had been grave. The end was almost predictable.
But then I was shocked. Like the passing of a friend, it hit me that the closing of the Regency means we’re losing something, something that’s important. Like maybe the loss of the Ambassador Hotel or even the Brown Derby in Hollywood, we’re losing something tangible, a place where a particular generation gathered, a place that came to represent an era.
In case you’re not familiar, the Regency is a private club owned by billionaire David Murdock on the top two floors of the Murdock Plaza building at Westwood and Wilshire boulevards. Think dark wood, oriental rugs, fireplaces – an Old World refuge in bustling Westwood.
Oh, sure, there’s the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles and some other genteel competitors. But the Regency is known as the top club for the most important businesspeople on L.A.’s vaunted Westside. There, you might bump into Eli Broad, who often comes up from his office in the same building.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Carl Terzian, who heads an eponymous public relations firm and who’s known for hosting back-to-back-to-back meetings, from one-on-one introductions to group lunches of 25 or so. Most of those meetings are held at the Regency.
He gets ribbed that he must have a cot there. “I supply them with most of their business,” he said, but not in a boastful way.
Now? He said he’ll look at Westside hotels and maybe move some of his meetings downtown to the Jonathan Club. “But there’s nothing like it,” he repeated.
The economy is part of the Regency’s problem, of course. Expensive club dues is the first item to be cut in any company belt-tightening. But another part – and this is the important part – is a generational change.
Here’s an example: Arlene Howard, a devoted club member, remembers meeting a client at the Regency who showed up in blue jeans. The club insisted they sit at a little table in the bar; it wouldn’t allow anyone in jeans in the main dining rooms. “I thought that was great,” said Howard.
But today’s professionals and executives don’t think that’s so great. To them, dress codes like that seem grandfatherly.
Take Nicholas R. Nikolov. He’s a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, and while he likes the Regency and has been to a number of meetings and meals there, “it feels old and stuffy.”
Instead, he’s trying to become a member of the Soho House on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. “It’s the new, happening place,” he said. The energy is greater, and members there tend to be younger. Like Nikolov. He’s 50.
Indeed, the last few times I was at the Regency, it occurred to me the median age was probably 86. OK, I exaggerate, but one time at lunch last year – this is the truth – my party was the only one there. It’s been clear for a while that the club’s membership had seriously thinned out. That’s why it was no surprise to learn that Murdock was pulling the plug. He must’ve figured the Regency had become too much of a royal pain for him to sustain.
Still, it’s a shock to learn that a generation of L.A.’s business leaders have apparently dwindled to where they cannot support a place like the Regency. And they suddenly are in need of a Westside place to meet and greet.
Howard wonders if it’ll be a place with loud music, chatty waiters who interrupt diners, and male patrons who don’t own a suit.
“The new majority has had its way,” she said. “It’s sad.”
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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