Metropolitan Club celebrates 25 years as force for good in region


It's a place where deals are done by business leaders across Greater Cincinnati, where behind-the-scenes conversations get the ball rolling and where those in the know meet to break bread, brainstorm and socialize.

It's the Metropolitan Club, a hidden gem on the 19th floor of downtown Covington’s RiverCenter Building.

Metropolitan Club President Dan Bockrath"Think of it as the city version of a suburban country club, minus the golf," said Metropolitan Club President Dan Bockrath. "It's more business-centric than a country club, but with a social undercurrent."

The club will celebrate its 25th anniversary this November, and organizers know that positive growth will be essential to ongoing success. According to Bockrath, that will mean adding 250 members to the club's current 750-member roster, with a push toward young professionals who can help lead the organization into the future.

It's uncommon for a place like the Metropolitan Club to have survived the last decade’s recession, when similar national and even local organizations — such as the former Bankers Club in downtown Cincinnati — were forced to close their doors.

Across the country, such business clubs have historically only accepted men. Time changed that identification; the Metropolitan Club, however, has accepted female members from the beginning. Bockrath says it was important to the club's founders to create a welcoming place that embraces inclusion and diversity as part of the club’s core values.
 
“While I can’t speak for [them] as to why that was important, frankly, I don’t think it matters,” Bockrath said. “What’s important is that the founding board were forward thinking in their vision for the Metropolitan Club. The mission is to provide a distinguished venue to unite diverse stakeholders from business, charitable, social and political spheres who desire to make a difference in our region.”

True to the style of traditional business clubs, the physical space has a formal feeling, with dark-wood panels and coffered ceilings. Members can convene in the club’s living room area or book a private room for meetings. The club also offers a first-class dining experience for members and guests alike.

But beyond its signature luxury, inclusiveness and sense of tradition, Bockrath believes the Metropolitan Club offers real value for members, who can access powerful business and networking opportunities and join together in support of charitable causes throughout the region.

“Many respected business leaders are members,” Bockrath said. “And the club is also an active philanthropic force within the community, contributing $1.4 million to local charities over the last 20 years.”

Two charitable organizations represent majority ownership in the Metropolitan Club. The first is Be Concerned, one of Northern Kentucky’s largest free food pantries; the other is Covington-based Life Learning Center, whose mission is to deliver a “holistic, integrated continuum of education and care to support at-risk citizens to reach their highest potential.”

“Those affiliations certainly set us apart from other city and country clubs," Bockrath said.

Pat Frew, Executive Director for the Covington Business Council and Urban Partnership, eats breakfast at the club almost every day.

“I don’t really have an excuse,” Frew said, laughing. “We’re (located) in the building anyhow.”

Of course, the real reason Frew frequently starts his day there is because he relies on the informal connections with other business leaders that club members have access to. It keeps Frew in the loop and aware of what his colleagues are doing in the community.

“I get to see a lot of community leaders in passing,” Frew said. “It’s a great opportunity to stay on top of things.”

Frew also heads up the club’s membership and marketing committees, explaining that in certain ways the club is like any other organization. “We’d like to show more young folks that it’s about more than great food and the view here. It’s a chance to mingle with people who are strong community leaders.”

According to Bockrath, the future of the club will hinge on retaining seasoned members while welcoming a crop of younger entrepreneurs and business owners.

“It helps business owners elevate what they are doing,” Bockrath said. “They bring colleagues or customers up here. The view is inspiring. Being here inspires imagination.”

Metropolitan Club is making some upgrades to modernize in the coming months, including installing faster internet. Another goal is to host additional programs in the space, such as a recent invitation for members to share their thoughts and possible solutions for the current heroin epidemic.

There’s also an opportunity to volunteer or attend a wine tasting or young professional meeting, said Bockrath.

Metropolitan Club member and local business owner Elizabeth CorbettLike most business organizations, the Metropolitan Club maintains a dress code, which was recently amended to allow business-casual attire and even jeans. That was a welcome change for Elizabeth Corbett, who dines at the club regularly with her husband and owns the local financial firm Focus on Success. “We’re looking forward to having dinner and a drink on the weekend and wearing jeans,” she said.

While like other members, Corbett values the solid networking opportunities, the Metropolitan Club’s food is still a major draw. “It’s really good!” she said. “My husband and I both have food intolerances, and the club is very good about accommodating us.”

High-quality fare is but another component of the club’s thoughtful and intentional design. Executive Chef Kelsey Yerger, a graduate of New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America, has been with the club since its opening day 25 years ago.

Corbett comes from a long line of Metropolitan Club members. Her parents even hosted a dinner for her there when she graduated from high school.

“I own my own business and am probably one of the youngest members of the club,” Corbett said. “It’s a good place to meet people out of the office.”

For those traditional types who prefer to conduct business on the golf course, the Metropolitan Club can accommodate that, too. The club maintains reciprocal agreements to make use of the greens at Losantiville Country Club (Cincinnati) and The Heritage Club in Mason as well as courses at Triple Crown Country Club in Union and Traditions Golf Club in Hebron.

Metropolitan Club initiation fees range from $400 to $800, with monthly membership dues from $96 to $146. Visit www.metropolitanclub.net for membership info and upcoming events.
 
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