(Bloomberg) — The Down Town Association, the oldest social club in lower Manhattan and a former haven for New York and national power brokers, has filed for bankruptcy.
The not-for-profit corporation, founded in 1859, has less than $75,000 in cash and property to cover $6.9 million in debt, most of which is owed to landlord Great Empire Realty, according to its bankruptcy petition filed Thursday in New York. It’s seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11 protection using rules usually reserved for small businesses.
Set in the shadow of the city’s financial district, the club’s location at 60 Pine Street dates from 1887 and is on a list of historic New York landmarks.
The club bills itself as “an island of quiet civility” and a “locus for nourishment, entertainment, relaxation or quiet discourse.” Rules bar jeans, sneakers and cell phones from the public spaces. To make a call, members can either get a private room or use phone booths.
In 2018, investor Benny Fong’s Great Empire paid $28.3 million for the building with plans to lease the property back to the club, according to New York trade publication The Real Deal.
To attract members in recent years, the club resorted to offering discounts on nearby parking and shopping, including 15% off at Brooks Brothers, the mens clothier that also was forced into bankruptcy after a history of serving Wall Street titans. Among the assets listed in court papers were two billiard tables, 18 portraits of presidents and treasurers and an elk’s head.
The list of creditors include about a dozen employees who are owed severance wages. A call seeking comment from the association’s Long Island-based bankruptcy lawyer wasn’t returned.