What’s the Women’s Table?
What street is Phelps Gate on?
What did Bass Library use to be called?
It’s not uncommon to have to show ID when trying to enter a popular New York City club. But walk into one Manhattan club on a Thursday night in the summer and you will not only have to present identification, you may also have to answer a trivia question. (Bass used to be Cross Campus Library, for freshmen keeping score.)
This ultra-exclusive venue is the Yale Club of New York. Founded in 1897, the 22-story clubhouse at 50 Vanderbilt Ave, towers over Grand Central Station, where hourly trains transport individuals from the Big Apple to the Dirty Have. Those eligible to join the club —which boasts a squash courts, lavish banquet halls, and a dimly lit, collegiate-style library—include, “anyone who has attended Yale University for a minimum of two years and holds a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, current full-time Yale faculty, or current full-time Yale graduate students,” notes the club’s website. A few aliens also make it through the club’s revolving doors: “These qualifications also apply for Dartmouth, DKE, and University of Virginia.”
But on Thursday nights in the summer, the old boy’s club relaxes its membership rules and welcomes Yalies over 21 and their guests for weekly Happy Hours. Once Bulldog status — through a Yale ID or correctly answered trivia question — has been proven, guests make their way up a grand staircase to the third floor Tap Room. At the front of the room, Yale club employees sell drink tickets. And though “the drinks aren’t cheap,” explains Philip Lang ’09, food — raw vegetables, spring rolls, wings, chips, and all other kinds of weekly specialties — is free, sprawled buffet-style in the middle of the room.
Suit-clad investment bankers hover around the free food, munching on spring rolls as they drink glasses of wine before returning to their cubicles around the corner. A little buzz might just get them through a sleepless night of crunching numbers. For the humanities types (read: “hipsters”) with the more “frivolous” internships, the drinks and food become a preparation (read: “pregame”) for the rest of the evening. Recent alumni mingle with old friends, share war stories about “real life,” and secretly long for their “bright college years.”
“I always wind up running into someone who I didn’t realize was living in New York or hadn’t seen in months,” explains Lang. “It’s really nice to have a place where everybody congregates — no planning is required to have a huge Yale reunion.”
But along the sides of the room sit those who are really in withdrawal from their bright college years. Older men and women sit around wooden tables and admire the flocks of 20 and 30-somethings that fill the room’s center. Twice each summer, the Yale Club hosts special “Mory’s Cup” Thursday nights, where the Tap Room does its best to mimic the Mory’s experience. On those occasions, it’s not only the young, boisterous frat boys that pass the trophy cups of drinks around tables, but also groups of older men that scold one another to never let the cup hit the table. This was the generation that knew Mory’s in its heyday, rather than the generation that saw its demise.
And so, on Thursday nights in the summer, the Tap Room becomes a place for men in their sixties to go back to college. It becomes a refuge for over-worked, under-paid recent grads who run into missed college crushes or share beers with old roommates. And for Yalies who flock to Manhattan during the summer, leaving behind pools, beaches, and home-cooked meals for internships and Cups of Noodles, the Yale Club becomes a reminder that Mother Yale still has her eye on them.
Another trivia question occasionally posed: Where do all roads lead?
The answer, of course, is Toads. But on summer Thursdays in Manhattan, the real answer is the Yale Club.