Health department closes Quad Club

By Robert Katz

Think the Quadrangle Club is an ivory tower? Think again.

A neon-green laminated sign was posted on the wood-and-iron front door of the club Monday, announcing that the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) had closed down the food and beverage services at the Club. It cited a rodent infestation, easy access for rodents, and other minor cleaning issues.

“This is an extraordinary event that will, of course, not be allowed to happen again,” said Richard Strier, President of the Board of the Quadrangle Club, in an e-mail interview. “We are hiring a new consultant to aid us in rodent control—a constant problem with an older building in our location—and we are doing the repairs to walls and pipes that the inspectors have demanded. The problems will not be allowed to recur.”

Frances Patch, Director of Food Protection for CDPH, said that the incriminating inspection was triggered by a complaint received through the City’s 311 hotline. The informant said she had seen three mice in the restaurant area of the club. Upon inspection, the CDPH found rodent droppings “throughout the building, indicating a rodent infestation,” according to Patch.

Patch said that the building’s exterior walls had holes in them, allowing rodents easy access into the building. She also said that the building’s garbage maintenance was deficient, “They had the garbage overflowing the bins. They need to keep their litter picked up. That will always attract mice.”

When asked if posh places such as the Quad Club are often shut down for health violations, Patch said that it happens to the best of places. “Generally, if the manager is not paying attention, we will find violations,” Patch said. “It is really important to monitor facilities to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Despite the damaging violations, Strier was optimistic about the future of the Club. “We see this as an unfortunate glitch that could and should have been avoided.”

He added that an upcoming kitchen renovation, financed by a loan from the University, would help with the avoidance of future violations.

“Our members have nothing to worry about with regard to sanitation,” Strier said. “This unfortunate episode should not be taken to define the situation of the Club, which, in its relation to both the University and the community—with regards to both members and staff—is a remarkable and admirable institution, and one that has been making great strides in liveliness and quality.”

Factors outside the Quadrangle Club’s control contributed to the situation, according to Chris Noglich, the general manager of the Club. He attributed the presence of mice to the recent garbage strike and the construction in the area. He also blamed the age of the building for various plumbing and structural issues.

CDPH spokesman Tim Hadac said that such considerations do not excuse hazards to public health. “There are many food establishments that are as clean as a whistle, so make of that statement what you will,” he said.

The Quadrangle Club, located at the corner of 57th Street and the east side of University Avenue, is considered one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. It is a place for University faculty and Hyde Park residents to relax and play tennis. Besides its clay tennis courts, the club has a restaurant, bar, sleeping rooms, catering, and private rooms for meetings and parties.

The bar has recently been renovated to match its original 1920s motif, and one of the suites was also recently redone. There is live jazz in the bar on the first Friday of every month, and distinguished members of the faculty and the community frequently give fireside chats.

The Quadrangle Club has 1300 members, about 70 percent of whom are faculty members, and 30 percent of whom are non-faculty Hyde Park residents.

Quadrangle Club members were informed of the health code violations via e-mail. Rustem Ismagilov, an assistant professor in the chemistry department and a member of the Club who visits nearly every day, said that he has no problems with the status of the Club.

“The entire staff is working very, very hard, and we are very close to fixing the problems,” Noglich said. “We anticipate full accreditation when we are re-inspected tomorrow .”