The Columbia Club: A Mixed Review:
I was a guest at this club recently. I was sponsored by a Columbia Club member, and I stayed several nights in a smallish, though acceptable, room on the sixth-floor. I'm sure that an old building like this one faces daily challenges balancing modern functionality against preservation of historic character, and as such, I'm willing to be more forgiving of old wiring, broken plaster and rusty pipes. However, the furniture in my room was, charitably, junk; it was held and mended together with glues, adhesives and wood filler. The table, chair, lamp, bed frame, armoire: all of them were of insubstantial build and quality, wobbling, creaking under the most casual use. Unacceptable. This furniture, even when new, was never more than flimsy, mass-produced motel-grade flotsam.
Considering eating a meal at The Columbia Club? Well, I hope that you like your food saturated in a froth of butter and salt. Seldom have I ever paid such exorbitant prices for food so unhealthily and inexpertly prepared. Is the kitchen of this club staffed with glorified school-cafeteria workers? more accustomed to slopping out mindless gruel to satisfy the palates of Snickers- and Doritos-chomping teen-agers? It is one thing for the architecture, ambience and aesthetic "presence" of this club to remain... charmingly unenlightened, but the food must possess a contemporary sophistication and understanding of nutrition. It is not enough to just ladle on more butter and cream when the taste isn't quite right. I'm guessing that regular members of this club are generally unconcerned about high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.
Finally, I had the opportunity to speak -- at times, candidly -- with individual employees of this club: clearly, the upper-management of The Columbia Club is regarded as anathema to employee morale. The individual valets, housekeepers, front desk staff, waiters and servers with whom I had contact were courteous and professional. But this professionalism and dedication to good service seems to be in spite of the club's management-- not because of it. I encourage other visitors (or members) of this club to parse the dynamics of this too-familiar phenomenon: good employees operating in an environment of lousy upper-management. My guess? If this phenomenon continues, the venerable Columbia Club will suffer the unspectacular fate of over-priced condos with a great view of the Circle.