The traditional meeting point of Buenos Aires's banking and industrial elites has shut its doors after it was unable to cope with financial hardships stemming from the COVID-19 restrictions.
Founded in 1918, the club easily became one of the most important and exclusive centres of political and economic discussion. But deep in debt and with many of its members unable to pay the monthly fee of a place they were barred from attending, the outcome was at some point inevitable.
There will no longer be turkey with cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving or after office with an amazing view: after 103 years, the American Club of Buenos Aires closed its doors.
The club was established to promote bilateral relations between the United States and Argentina. It welcomed countless presidents, politicians, artists, ambassadors, lawyers and industry heavyweights from all over the world. A newspaper report said President Alberto Fernández used to be a regular.
The club's Viamonte 1133 headquarters was built in 1951, facing Buenos Aires' famous Colón Theater. The location offered one of the best views of the city, including the Obelisk and the Courthouse Palace. Weddings and social events of all kinds were held there.
Robert Urban, the American Club's last president said the long-lasting confinement ended up deciding the fate of the club, which had been putting up financial problems for years.
“Until the 90s, multinationals had American presidents and many expatriates who came to work in Buenos Aires. The companies contributed money to the club so that there would be an activity centre for the families,” Urban also pointed out.
That changed as CEOs began to be replaced by Argentines. That support, for reasons related to the economy, demographic changes, socioeconomic events and the pandemic, was slowly disappearing.
Starting in the 1990s, the various administrations sold some of the club's real estate to cover debts. On March 18, 2020, the American Club closed its doors due to the mandatory quarantine decreed by the national government, after which it became increasingly difficult to pay wages and cover other expenses. By the time things began going back to normal, the Club had already been without an operating income for over a year and a half. It was too late.
Most members voted against an extraordinary fee to stay afloat and in September it was decided to move forward with bankruptcy proceedings.
Although the pandemic dealt the final blow, the American Club had already been going through financial difficulties before the 1990s.
But lately the problems came to light,” Urban said in an interview. “The new Governing Board had inherited a structure with high costs, lawsuits that exceeded the Club's payment capacity and significant contingent liabilities and that is how despite a long and fruitful active life, the American Club of Buenos Aires quietly accepted an end to the cycle, he went on.