Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Bankers Club Closes

The Bankers Club, on the 14th floor of One Biscayne Tower, closed last Thursday.  I joined the club in 1977, not long after Smathers & Thompson made me a (junior) partner.  According to firm tradition at the time, when a lawyer made partner, the other partners proposed his membership in the University Club, another, much older downtown club.  But the UC was restricted, that is, they did not admit Jews and they did not admit women.  The nearly new Bankers Club admitted both, and so I turned down the invitation and joined the Bankers Club instead.  It provoked the anger of the senior partner with whom I worked most of the time. He complained that the Jews had their own club, which they did, in another building downtown a couple of blocks away.  He got over it.

Not that Smathers & Thompson itself had any such restrictions.  A friend of mine there, who was also a junior partner at Smathers & Thompson, was Jewish.  He, however, had not been invited to join the University Club. That annoyed me.

A year or two later, the University Club dropped the restriction against Jews.  The club immediately extended my friend an invitation.  To my surprise, he immediately accepted it.  In the meanwhile, I had found the Bankers Club completely satisfactory.

(Years later, I also joined the University Club.  It was much more social - where the Bankers Club was strictly professional.  The UC closed a few years  after I joined, but not before Carol and I attended a social event at the Indian Creek Country Club, itself a very exclusive venue.  It was a very formal occasion, black tie, etc.  We witnessed that night to our dismay and astonishment, as midnight approached, drunken women stumbling around in their long dresses.  It was a heavy drinking crowd.  We did not attend another UC social event. We did not lament its closing.)

I have some great memories of the Bankers Club, the two best memories being the parties we had for my dad, the first to celebrate his 70th birthday and the second his 80th.

The Bankers Club also had wonderful Mother's Day brunches (a rare concession to a non-professional event).  Carol, our children, my father and mother usually attended with my Jewish friend, his mother, his wife, and his children.  Other members brought their families - the brunch was a sumptuous buffet and very well attended.  It was a rare treat to see the downtown professionals with spouses and children.  We all became a bit more human to each other.

Another favorite memory was the luncheon I had at the Bankers Club with the general counsel of Bacardi.  This occurred after Smathers and Thompson merged with Kelley Drye and Warren in 1987.  Bacardi was a client of KDW.  Joining us at the lunch were the former president and chairman of the board, then a senior partner at Kelley Drye, who had a second home on Key Biscayne, and another NY KDW partner who had flown down for the lunch.  I learned that behind Barcardi were extensive family networks, many of which were Miami-based.  Many of those families were serious about estate planning and enjoyed the benefits of various kinds of trusts.  The men with whom I met were a generation ahead of me, and were anxious to transfer a lot of the estate planning trust work from NY to Miami and to a younger, local lawyer.  Was I up to it?  I guess they thought so, because I still work for Barcardi families.  My memories of that luncheon, however, are dominated by the impression these men, lawyers all, made on me.  They were serious, bright, unaffected, and friendly.  I thought they were marvelous, and still do.

After KDW closed its Miami office and when we opened our current firm in 1999, we usually had our Holiday parties at the Bankers Club.  We were well treated and it was enjoyable, although, as the years went by, we began to have those parties at other restaurants, mostly over on the Brickell side of the business district.  The growth in the number of of alternate places to dine - of every variety - spelled the doom for the Bankers Club.  But I did not have the heart to cancel my membership and I kept up the monthly dues, even after the management opened its services up to the public.  What a great help the Bankers Club was to me professionally.  It was a blessing for which I will remain grateful.

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