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Number 1 Shimbun

Letters

 

THANKS FOR THE TENTATIVE preview of the new club layout in the September issue. While acknowledging that tastes are bound to differ, I’d like to raise some caveats.

Some of the pictures show seating that looks more fashionable than comfortable. A club, being a home away from home, should emphasize comfort. In particular, a foreign club in Japan should avoid investing in typical domestically produced furniture that is made with the typical Japanese body mass in mind. The commodious Main Bar chairs of two generations ago should be the ideal. I have retained one and Geoff Tudor has several if anyone cares to look. You can sit in them happily for hours on end. Check dimensions including table height to make sure we can all fit in without economy class syndrome.

Particularly alarming features in the preliminary pictures are low-backed pieces – such as the reception area couch and the clearly anti-comfort stools surrounding the library’s “wires table.” (What is that, by the way?) As for stools in particular, I suspect most members would prefer to keep their feet on the floor – although well-designed medium-to-high-backed stools along the bar, with well designed foot rails, shouldn’t be a problem.

The library, I must say, bears no resemblance to any library I’ve ever used. Perhaps it’s partly the lighting effects used by whoever produced the picture, but I’m afraid it comes across like an airport duty free shop. Where are the books? Am I right in gathering that one would have to leave the library lounge and go next door to find bookshelves?

Finally, while the Japanese contemporary motif in one version of the reception area is reasonably attractive (much more so than the “straightforward modern” alternative), to my taste there is still too much contemporary styling throughout. Perhaps placing club memorabilia on the walls will help to distinguish our premises from the typical Tokyo commercial space, but I’d suggest avoiding the heavy reliance on earth tones and sharp lines punctuated by electronic visual devices that the pictures reveal. Give us some primary colors (red chairs?) and some rich paneling.

Anyhow, to those who have been working hard on this, many thanks for a promising start.

Bradley Martin

 

 

IN RESPONSE TO OUR president’s November column concerning the club’s move to new premises, I would like to thank Mr. Azhari for informing the membership of the seriousness of the problems the club faces.

To this end, I have a number of questions I hope the president or board could answer.

1) I have seen nothing in No. 1 Shimbun or in any notice sent to the membership about an internal report that the club will become ‘insolvent’ if it proceeds with the project. Can the president or board confirm?

2) Records show that the board in office in spring 2015 committed the club to 30% additional floor space, thus 30% higher rent, with no plan for increasing membership. I was told early on that the additional floor space would be assessed at the ‘same per tsubo (3.3-sq.m.) rate’. Which means, based on our current rent budget: We will have to pay an additional ¥25 million or more in annual rent, which exceeds yearly proceeds generated from the ¥1,000/month special levy.

Please provide details of the business plan justifying the 30% increase. I found nothing in board meeting minutes except a short note on Feb. 12, 2015, the day that the ‘pre-lease’ agreement was approved, that a “detailed evaluation of the financial implications is still needed” There is no record of that evaluation.

3) Separately, I was told that Mitsubishi Estate would be responsible for constructing a new restaurant, bar and kitchen. The problem: We know that the current outsourcing operation isn’t working. One rarely sees correspondent members in the bar and almost never in the dining room. The club pays its outsourcing partner 90% of all bar, restaurant and banquet proceeds including even for our speaker luncheons. If we include indirect costs such as our reception staff, the net payout approaches 95%.

Has the board found a replacement for IRS, the Tokyu Hotel group subsidiary, that has substantially failed to deliver a consistent product at affordable prices?

4) At the same Feb. 12, 2015 board meeting, it was reported that the move would require “a substantial number of additional members.” By my count, we must raise the current total by 10% (150 associate members) to cover the ¥25 million in additional rent charges. The club lost members in the most recent fiscal year.

On what basis does the board believe that it can increase membership by moving from a top-floor Ginza location with a view of Tokyo’s skyline to a 6th floor(?) off-Ginza location with no view while, at the same time, changing the membership composition to more females (currently fewer than 10%), younger members (fewer than 5% under 35), foreign members (fewer than 20%), and journalists (fewer than 10% full-time)?

5) I have heard scuttlebutt that the current floor plan will create operational problems for whoever we choose to run our bar and restaurant. Is this true? Contrary to what many people think, the FCCJ is primarily a restaurant operation. An estimated 90% of revenues including fees paid to the club’s outsourcing partner and associate member dues are related to the club's food and beverage operation. The project has no chance to succeed if the club doesn’t upgrade our F&B operation. And that begins with service and the menu, whatever the board thinks will attract new members.

6) Does the club have the management capability to handle a project of this nature and scale. When the club undertook the 1993 bar renovation, we had a general manager, Albert Stamp, who held an MBA from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, one of the best in the world. When the club rebuilt its kitchen in 2001, the board had no one of that caliber to assist us. The result: there were major design flaws and we purchased, in some cases, the wrong equipment.

Again, Khaldon, thank you for your report.

Roger Schreffler

Former FCCJ president (1999-2000)

 

 

RESPONSE

1) & 2) The Finance Committee authorized the Treasurer to make a report at the last two GMMs informing members that the Club can not afford the huge increase in rent that previous BODs committed us to at the new Fuji Bldg. Nor can the Club afford projected moving costs. We have a Special Levy to take care of that but that doesn't mean we actually have that money because we are in deficit even with said special levy. We also sent a letter to all 2,000 members asking members for ideas, donations – eg. purchase chairs and wall plaques with individual members’ names attached – and we got zero response.

3) A New FB contract from next September 1, 2017 will help put us into the black and cover our present costs, but not the increased rent when we move in October 2018. We have to ask Mitsubishi to give us reduced or deferred rent and seek additional sources of revenue beyond the usual calls for increasing members and dues (which not everyone supports). Then we might be okay.

In regard to the search for a new provider, we have six FB candidates we have been talking to for months. We gave an RFP (in early November) and are anticipating their proposals in December. IRS has also been given the RFP. We want to choose one of the candidates by the end of the year. We have to inform IRS whether or not we will continue with them by February.

4) There is no way of telling whether or not the club will lose members by moving to the new site because of the less convenient location, or gain members because we will have a new facility. That is in the realm of fortune telling.

5) Floor design in new bldg. is still being evaluated. But FB candidates have expressed dissatisfaction with it.

6) Our FB candidates have expertise. Reps of different companies we are talking to have degrees from same Cornell School of Hotel Administration Al Stamp attended. The chosen FB candidate will take over August 2017 and continue on in new building.

Also Rod Lucas and I talked to a consultant who told us one good thing we can do about furniture is have our present round tables and armchairs refurbished. Would cost an estimated ¥50,000 per armchair. Consultant said we should be careful of new furniture made in China that would likely be unsuitable for larger Western bodies and be cheaply built. He said our furniture may be old but some of it is still very strong. The GM is considering other options, such as donations from major hotels. (Suggestions welcome).

I believe the design of the FB facility at the new Fuji Bldg is flawed.

Robert Whiting

Treasurer,

Finance Committee Chair

 

Published in: December 2016

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