Mountain Lakes Club NJ resumes operations with new investors
Opened in 1913, the Mountain Lakes Club weathered an influenza pandemic, two world wars and the Depression to reach the end of the 20th century.
The past few years have presented new challenges, including a $ 2.8 million bank loan that strained operations and turned into declining memberships and near foreclosure in 2018.
New leadership helped straighten the ship and restore the ranks of the members. But just as things were getting back to normal, the COVID pandemic struck, creating a new set of hurdles for the club to overcome.
Finally, Board Chairman Joe Scura said the Mountain Lakes Club is looking forward to the kind of special summer that generational members remember, with swimming, tennis, seaside parties. swimming pool, boating and of course a front row seat for the borough’s annual July 4th fireworks display.
“It’s been three long years,” said Scura, who took over the chairmanship of the board during the club’s crisis in 2018. “It will be a great summer.”
Located on the north shore of Mountain Lake, the largest of the wealthy dormitory community’s six man-made lakes, the club, at its peak, had around 300 family memberships and a waiting list to join.
“It truly is a gem of our community,” said former Borough Mayor Blair Schleicher Wilson. “This is a historic building that has been lovingly restored. A wonderful place to relax and enjoy our beautiful lake.”
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Loans in the amount of $ 2.8 million were obtained in 2008 for major renovations to aging facilities. They included improvements to the interior of the building, which includes lounges, a bar, a restaurant, a banquet hall and even a small bowling alley.
The fruits of these renovations remain, but so does the debt.
“As soon as they took out the loan, the economy collapsed and the membership started to drop,” Scura said. “This led to a cycle of declining revenues. As revenues declined and services suffered, more members dropped out.”
This cycle will hopefully end shortly. A group of local members agreed to buy the banknote and lease the club to members on financial terms they can handle.
The deal was still on hold on Thursday, but Scura sees “no obstacles” to an impending closure. He declined to name the investors, saying they wanted to remain anonymous, but “we would have been left out without these guys.”
As membership grew to over 200, Scura said last summer at the club was relatively normal given state mandates limiting capacity and other social distancing edicts.
“It was a challenge,” he said. “We scoured the Governor’s Order daily to see what it was safe to do and not do, and where members would feel comfortable.”
Masks were required in some cases and a reservation system was put in place to comply with contact tracing requirements.
“But at the pool, once you got to your table, it was a pretty normal summer,” Scura said. “And we never had to shut down for contact tracing or anything.”
The club also worked to support the community during the pandemic, using its kitchen to prepare family-style meals delivered to members and non-members, “especially people we knew were immunosuppressed.”
The club also provided meals to the New Jersey fire department in Boonton when a COVID outbreak occurred there at the start of the state’s shutdown.
But even with the increase in membership, “the club was constantly in a position of trying to find band-aid solutions together just to keep the doors open,” Scura said. “We tried everything we could legally. We fought tooth and nail to extend the club’s lifeline. COVID has played a bit of a role because the courts have been slowed down.”
The financial windfall will also allow the club to offer more affordable membership options in an effort to attract new families to the Mountain Lakes Club family.
“I’m very happy to hear that we have people in our town who really care about wanting to save it,” Wilson said. “I think it would be a huge hole in our city if the club weren’t here.”
Those who register before July 2 can take advantage of a prime location for the borough’s annual July 4 fireworks display over Mountain Lake. As they were in many cities during the pandemic, the fireworks display was canceled in 2020.
“We are fully operational and expect a 100% normal summer,” said Scura.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.