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Although the Yale Club of New York City, a private clubhouse for Yale alumni and affiliates, has temporarily closed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the club has found ways to engage its members in virtual formats. 

The Yale Club of New York City closed its physical location on March 20 in order to adhere to the health and safety guidelines surrounding COVID-19. This meant that its 3 restaurants, 138 guest rooms, fitness facilities, library, banquet rooms and more are inaccessible to the Club’s members. However, staff at the Club have put on a variety of virtual events and other programming to help ensure that members feel connected.

“Although we are all eager to return to normalcy, we must comply with the health and safety guidelines being set forth by our government and the CDC,” read an automated email from the guest rooms department at the Club. “Please rest assured that we are all working hard to ensure that we are ready to welcome everyone back to their home away from home!” 

The Yale Club of New York City, founded in 1897, is the largest physical college clubhouse in existence. The Club opened its doors at its current location in 1915. The current building is 22 stories tall with a location close to Grand Central Station. There are over 11,000 current members, made up of either full-time faculty or graduates of Yale University. It contains numerous facilities, including multiple bars and restaurants, a library, three international squash courts, a swimming pool, banquet rooms and overnight accommodations. 

When the clubhouse closed, staff immediately worked to transfer activities onto a virtual format. For example, the Club hosts a regular Chef’s Cooking Corner with the Executive Chef at the Club Charles Kehrli. The cooking shows are hosted over Zoom, Instagram Live and YouTube as Kehrli shows members how to make the Club’s famous popovers, among other dishes. 

After Kehrli produced an array of popover dishes, Michael Bullers, Director of Purchasing at the Club, remarked that “This is the absolute most I have despised not being able to be in the same room as one of these events, because I absolutely want to eat every single plate that’s in front of you right now.” 

According to Julia Chen ’16, activities director of the Club, cooking lessons are just one component of a wide menu of programming options. Other virtual activities include “virtual fitness classes, mixology lessons, virtual happy hours, and most notably, an expanded program of live lectures,” she told the News in an email. 

“With the benefit of the online platform, we were able to bring in even more speakers from around the world, and many Yale Professors, to speak to our membership on history, politics, and COVID-19,” Chen said. “We’ve gotten overwhelmingly great feedback on these in particular, and some members say that they’ve never felt more connected to the Club.”

Chen added that, for the class of 2020, the Club held a virtual graduation ceremony. In addition, the Club also hosted special virtual events for Yale’s commemoration of 50 years of coeducation in Yale College.

Beyond virtual programming, members could also download activities such as a DIY Backgammon game, as well as access e-books and other digital resources. 

Although the Club is not open to the public, there are still staff members in the building for maintenance, as well as to prepare for its phased reopening, beginning on Oct. 19.

According to Chen, the Club has set up an employee relief fund for employees that are unable to work remotely. In addition, Club administrators have kept in contact with employees through updates. The Club’s public spaces have also been reorganized to meet social distancing requirements, Chen said. 

Although life at the Club will not return to normal for the foreseeable future, members will be able to access the Main Lounge, Library and Athletics Facility during the first phase of its reopening plan. 

Chen ended her email to the News noting her excitement for the beginning of the reopening process, as well as a hint of optimism. 

“Since 1897, The Yale Club has survived prior pandemics, depressions, world wars and other crises,” Chen said. “We’ll survive this one too.”

The Yale Club of New York City is located at 50 Vanderbilt Ave. in New York City.

Madison Hahamy | madison.hahamy@yale.edu