The once-doomed Petroleum Club is back and slowly re-opening

Even if you missed the Long Beach Petroleum Club’s glory days of the 1960s and on into the ’70s, you can still sense the history of the place as you walk through it a couple of decades into the 21st Century: Old money. Ladies in gowns and furs. Strains of swing music wafting from the ballroom. The tinkling of highballs from the circular bar in the Linden Lounge. The smell of cigar smoke from the Red Room mixing with the scent of chlorine drifting indoors from the mammoth patio pool.

The club, which opened in Bixby Knolls at 3636 Linden Ave. in 1954, was teetering on extinction and, in fact, closed for good in March 2019 when it was purchased by Realtors Bill Larson and Steve Hyde, ostensibly for a condominium project.

But now, against all odds and expectations, the Petroleum Club is bouncing back and in a big way, with all of its original trappings extant, to be used at first for meetings and special events. And soon, for the public to enjoy lunches in the Red Room and cocktails in the Linden Lounge, with pool memberships a bit further in the future.

And what about the condo project, which was met with disappointment and anger from fans of the historic club that was built in chiefly for oilmen and their families?

Turned out that project was a nonstarter.

“The city said no to condos,” said operating partner Dan D’Sa, who is basically the boss of the place, running all the food and beverages as well as managing all the events. “They put that idea to bed pretty quick.”

With no other good option, the owners retreated to a nostalgic-laced future for the club, and if you have memories of its old days, you’ll feel at home in the thoroughly freshened up building.

“We’re open now to start having events, with restrictions,” said D’Sa, referring to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s up to the state and the city as to when we can come all the way back,” he said. “Right now, we’re limited to 33% capacity, no dancing, no buffets.”

Still, D’Sa, who is also vice president of The Grand events center, said, “we’ve been booking some corporate holiday events, meetings and some other parties.”

The rooms at the club are rented out separately, with the big ballroom, with a capacity of about 780 people, going for $1,500 to $2,000, the smaller Terrace Room for $1,000 to $1,500 and the Red Room and/or Linden Lounge, “I’m not 100% sure yet, they kind of go together,” said D’Sa.

The swimming pool and its patio is what the public is most concerned about, “and also the most expensive,” he said. “I want the pool area to look really nice, so we’ve gotta demo the deck and everything around the pool and get new furniture and really make it like a country club out here.”

The lobby of the Long Beach Petroleum Club in Long Beach Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Which means no swimming this summer while the work is being done. D’Sa anticipates selling pool memberships in the summer of 2022. Those memberships will likely cost about $1,500, with a food and beverage minimum, per season, which will run from June to the end of August with the pool open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, when a Cabo-style Mexican grill will be set up poolside.

For the more immediate future, D’Sa says the Red Room will be open for lunch, by reservation, on Thursdays with a limited prime rib menu. And soon, the public will be able to drop by for a cocktail or a beer Monday through Thursday. “We’re still in the process of getting all the licenses in order, and we’re almost done,” said D’Sa. “COVID has really slowed the process down.”

He says perhaps in six months, the thawing of restrictions should allow the club to host full-on weddings and receptions, perhaps with a face-mask requirement.

As for food, D’Sa said he’s looking for some throwback items, “but Long Beach throwback. Maybe the salad recipe from the Northwoods Inn or the warm salad that Kelly’s of Naples used to serve.”

To book an event or to make a reservation for the Thursday prime rib lunch, call the club at 562-427-7966.

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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.