In Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, Otto Car Club is leading small group drives in which no one exits cars while it continues to charge its normal fees (minimum $400 monthly, plus an annual $5,000 to $8,500). New York’s Classic Car Club, while retaining the $5,000 minimum annual memberships and $180 monthly dues, is opening driving privileges to those with the less-expensive “social” accounts that normally stipulate that such members can use the clubhouse but not drive the cars. The club is also allotting additional driving points, running a virtual racing series on its track simulators, and cleaning the fleet of real sports cars cars with disinfecting wipes and ozone generators—a process that takes about three hours per car to remove all viral contaminants.

Roughly 30 members have let their memberships drop, says CCC co-owner Michael Prichinello. “It’s an annual commitment, paid monthly. We let them out of their commitment. Some people had to leave the city and hit a hardship. We’re not here to add to that.”

But most have been pleased. “They’ve done a great job communicating and keeping the fleet rolling—I’m looking forward to getting back to drinking Old-Fashioneds at the bar,” says longtime member Colin Britton. Applications to the club, Prichinello says, are up.

“Overall, we’re just trying to be of service,” he says about driving privileges for its high-powered Porsche 911s and brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C8. “If you saw the state of the subway system, no one wants to be in it, or an Uber car. We know members have to get around, so we’re trying to make it as clean and safe and flexible for them as possible.”

Different strategies for member retainment and appreciation take different forms, of course, depending on the nature of the club. In London, the 67 Pall Mall Club, a private club for wine enthusiasts, is crediting unused months during lockdown to members’ accounts and has put on “an absorbing program” of virtual wine tastings that have “gone down an absolute storm,” says member James Warren. “I couldn’t fault them.”

L.A.’s San Vincente Bungalows—the no-cameras-allowed hiding grounds du jour for Hollywood’s A-list elite—has closed but is allowing current members to suspend and carry over dues into future months. 

Maintaining Engagement
“The saying used to be, ‘A club will change its way of thinking one deceased board member at a time’—but now, we’ve seen clubs change at a rapid speed,” says Wallmeyer. “We prefer to say ‘physical distancing,’ rather than ‘social distancing,’ because clubs can still provide a social aspect of life. There are ways can we still engage members’ day-to-day lives.”

Much of it has to do with fostering humanitarian impulses among members.

San Francisco’s the Battery club is running a blood drive and offering virtual seminars on nutrition and mental health, along with lighter fare such as DJ sets and Zoom conferences on the golden age of Bay Area rock music. Members also lobbied for the option of allocating their dues to support the club’s nonprofit program, Battery Powered, or to extend a lifeline to furloughed staff.

Michael Birch, a co-founder of the club, says 37% of members opted to pay it forward instead of taking food and beverage or hotel credits, with most of them choosing to help staff. “We couldn’t be more delighted,” Birch says. The funds brought groceries, health care, and cash payments.