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Peoria’s Century-old Creve Coeur Club Eyes Move To River Station

210713 Creve Coeur Club.jpg
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU

A century-old downtown Peoria social club could be on the move in the near future.

Members of the Creve Coeur Club will vote during Wednesday’s annual meeting on a proposed relocation to vacant space in River Station as part of a broader revisioning of the club’s business model.

“Like a lot of things, clubs have struggled recently, especially business clubs,” said Creve Coeur Club president Brian Gruber. “For our club, being in the middle of the city, downtown clubs have been particularly hard hit prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic only accelerated trends that were already happening.”

Gruber said moving from the current location in the Twin Towers Plaza to more space with more appeal to younger professionals would be a key step toward reversing a trend of declining club membership. He said the club saw its member roster cut in half in less than a decade, from about 300 regular members and 40 corporate memberships in 2012 to 140 members and less than 20 corporate memberships when he took over as president in October.

“Habits of young professionals have changed,” said Gruber. “They're no longer meeting over lunch meetings, which the club has historically and primarily been a lunch club. So ultimately, we had to take a hard look in the mirror and think about our future, and explore other options for what our product is, who we appeal to, where we're located, the amenities we offer, and all of those sorts of things.”

210713 River Station.jpg
Joe Deacon

Club member Kert Huber, the property manager for the city-owned River Station, has offered to lease the space to the club at the same rate he pays the city. The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern and Martinis on Water Street are the building's current tenants.

Gruber said no firm agreement is in place and other aspects related to moving expenses remain “up in the air at this point.” In an email, Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the city has no involvement with any potential sublease agreement.

Urich said the building has had a master tenant lease since 1979 that was amended in 2014, requiring Huber to pay the city $2.25 per square foot of subleased space. The city manager said that agreement runs through 2029, and subleasing additional space to the Creve Coeur Club would generate additional revenue for the city.

Gruber, 45, admits he’s “on the younger side” of the club’s membership, estimating the average age of members is around the mid-60s. He said revamping the club’s approach is necessary to start attracting a younger clientele, attributing the declining membership to numerous factors.

“First and foremost, the nature of social media, I think, creates the illusion that you have, and are able to make, real connections with people,” he said. “While it's convenient to be able to interact with people via social media platforms, those are not necessarily meaningful and interpersonal connections.

“We still believe that there is a need and a demand for a place where business leaders and community leaders can come together in the spirit of the original mission of the club, which was to network, to promote each other's business interests, and to build fellowship among our members.”

Founded in 1894, the Creve Coeur Club moved to the Twin Towers in 2001. Gruber said the larger River Station space would give the club the ability to offer dinner service and host more events, while also having more appeal with outdoor options.

“We think there's still demand for an urban experience and we think there’s viability for a downtown club,” he said. “The River Station presents an opportunity for us, given the fact that the space has been vacant for quite some time.

“With everything else that's happening in downtown, we think that this could create sort of a spark of revitalization, a resurgence of activity. When you've got a club that can put on various types of functions in the heart of downtown, it draws people into the downtown area and specifically the Riverfront area.”

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