Thursday, January 17, 2013

Death Knell

   You walked down this dingy alley off Walnut street. There may be a ripe smelling homeless guy sleeping on cardboard. There were a few dumpsters and the street always seemed to glisten with moisture even on a 95 degree August day. This was Sydenham street; the location of the Vesper Club. When you walked in you were greeted in the foyer by a middle aged guy in an ill-fitting blazer. He worked the door for years. He knew your name, asked if you were meeting anyone,inquired about business and the weather and then ushered you through the inner door. His hand eagerly extended for the folded single or two.
   Once in the bar, your nose caught the smell of cigars and a whiff of scotch on the breath of a bar regular who turned to welcome you. There is a hint of wood polish and grilled meat whipped in with the smell of leather. From behind the bar Matty greets you by name. If it is happy hour you grab a stool at the long polished bar and Matty will make you an excellent Manhattan or pour you a Myers's and Tonic. There is horseradish cheddar and crackers on the bar, bowls of mixed nuts add a salty punctuation to your sip of the first drink. In Summer, the AC blasts and when coupled with a well shaken Mt. Gay Rum Daiquiri...provides a serene respite from a humid evening in the Quaker City.
   When you were a young lawyer, the partners took you to lunch here. You ate the Philadelphia lunch of Snapper Soup laced with Sherry followed by platters of chicken salad and fried oyster.  Cases and department business controlled the discussion at table during lunch.

    In contrast, the happy hour discourse could be the Flyers, horse racing, local politics or the State of the Union in general. The bartenders knew their craft and knew what you drank. George ruled the floor and knew your table preference. This was a club...not overly exclusive and a bit frayed at the edges...but a comfortable joint. I had drinks here with the Blog-stars The Trad,  Maxminimus and Yankee Whiskey Papa. When guys like that came to town, The Vesper Club was the perfect place to meet.

   I had my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary party n the private bar downstairs. We had  annual Black Tie dinners for the Poker Club upstairs. You got buzzed and reminisced at retirement dinners.You could drink a few icy beers and watch the Phillies with some fellow fans. The brunch before Eagles games was legendary.
   Now it seems to be history. The building was sold. The Vesper Club got booted. In September they moved across the street to a doomed and fleeting semi- merger with the Racquet Club. The Racquet Club quickly pulled the cord on that relationship on December 29th. It is lamentable. In salute, one can have the James Bond created cocktail "The Vesper" and recall the good times.This cocktail is a blend of Gordon's Gin, Russian Vodka and  Lillet with a twist. Shaken on ice until very cold, served up in a Martini glass this drink is like the Club...a unique mix and classic.


M.Lane said...

Awful news for all of us clubmen. I had hoped to one day earn one of your Epic nights at the Vesper.

What a shame. Well there is still the Whitemarsh Valley Inn. If that ever closes please dont tell me. I just dont want to know.


Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

Awful news. I remember the cheese plates, the cigars, and the large drinks there. A raised glass to that club and its members from me tonight.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Thanks for the comments boys. There is an outside chance the Club will re-convene at a new location. Stay tuned.

RulingPart said...

That was a lovely eulogy.

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful tribute. You may recall there was a time not all that long ago when club membership in Philadelphia was the way a certain gentleman of a achievement dined, drank and socialized. The restaurant revolution of the 1970's pioneered by folks like Steve Poses, Georges Perrier and Helen Sigel Wilson changed the way Philadelphia dined, and restaurants are surely more egalitarian than were private clubs, but I feel that something is lost. Sort of like spending $7000 on a Kiton suit and forgoing a $3000 bespoke number from a tailor who actually knows you.


Brohammas said...

Thanks to you... I knew what the Inquirer was talking about when they ran the story.

Anonymous said...

RIP Vesper.

I was actually about to cancel my membership based on all the nonsense with the move. Now it seems I won't have to. Such a shame that such a great place got such a big screwing.