Petroleum Club’s well going dry at the end of March

Management for the Petroleum Club of Long Beach announced this week that the venerable social club will be closing its doors for good on March 31, bringing an end to the days when local oilmen and their spouses danced, drank, ate and swam at the once-prestigious social complex at 3636 Linden Ave. in Bixby Knolls.

“After careful consideration from the finances of the Club, the Board of Directors has determined that it is not feasible for the Club to remain in operation,” wrote board president Peter Allen in a letter to the club’s members. After March 31, Allen wrote, “the Club will be closed to the public, and its food and pool service will be terminated.

“After 61 years in operation, it is hard to say good-bye to an era in which the industry was booming and the Club business even bigger.”

The club’s general manager, Angela Roman also sent out a letter, assuring members who have donated personal artifacts for display at the club that they should call to arrange a pick-up of their property between April 1 and April 5.

The Petroleum Club has actually been in operation for 65 years, beginning in 1955 when it operated in a space next to Ricart’s Restaurant at 4635 Atlantic Ave. Three years later, its members moved into the current location on Linden.

Over the years, thousands of Long Beachers enjoyed the club’s restaurant in the Red Room, had cocktails around the circular bar in the Linden Lounge, watched their kids frolic in the massive outdoor pool, where you could order drinks and food delivered to their tables and enjoyed the club’s famous Sunday evening buffets.

The Petroleum Club is still in the early days of an unusually lengthy 200-plus-day escrow, so its permanent closure is not necessarily a done deal yet, though hope for its rescue has waned along with its dwindling membership.

The Long Beach Petroleum Club will close on March 31, according to the president of its board of directors. Courtesy photo.

Blair Cohn, the executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement District has tried to boost the club’s popularity by hosting a number of events there, including themed events making use of its now-nostalgic ambience, like Rat Pack Night and Havana Night along with several cocktail parties with his Good Spirits Club.

“I’ve tried to encourage the board to get new members,” he said. But things have changed, societally, in modern times.

Back in the 1950s, he said, there was a need for places to socialize, like the now-gone Elks Lodge and other clubs. “In this day and age, everyone’s got their phones. They don’t want to go out to meet people.”

And while a Hail Mary effort might save the club from demolition and development, “to put in a lot of energy now as the closing credits are rolling makes things a lot more difficult,” said Cohn. “That kind of effort should have been done in B.C. — before Cohn,” he said.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.