The state Department of Economic and Community Development has a noble mission: It offers businesses in Connecticut millions of dollars of assistance in loans and grants every year, with the goal of stimulating the state’s economy and bringing jobs to communities. So why is it trying to save an old private club?
A $100,000 grant to refurbish the Hartford Club is a poor decision and tone-deaf to the state’s fiscal and social realities.
To be sure, the grant accompanies a $300,000 loan, and the club, which has been an institution in Hartford for nearly a century and a half, badly needs the money. It owes $312,000 in back taxes to the city. Its membership has shrunk to 475 from the 1,300 it boasted in 1998. It is paying its taxes now, but it needs an influx of members to keep afloat. Renovations to the club are said to be crucial to the effort.
It nearly closed in 2015 when it couldn’t pay its bills, until it was rescued by a couple of philanthropists, 50 members and a hearty million-dollar fundraising effort.
Under the terms of the state’s “Small Business Express” loan program, the club must retain 20 employees and add five more.
Invest In The Future, Not The Past
Even under normal circumstances, one might reasonably question whether five jobs are worth a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant and $300,000 loan. But this isn’t a normal business. This is a private club that costs a lot of money every year to enjoy. It’s a retreat for the well-heeled, even if they aren’t all white men, as in days of yore. It’s a back room with back rooms. Why should the average taxpayer have to pay to get this institution out of hock?
If its membership is waning, isn’t that a…
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