Home Month and Year February 2023 Calgary’s Premier Business Club Turns 75

Calgary’s Premier Business Club Turns 75

Toni-Marie Ion-Brown (GM) and Ryan Ackers (Governor). Photos by Zev Vitaly Abosh.

The Calgary Petroleum Club has created a sense of belonging and community since it was founded in 1948. Members of this business club were gifted three homes on 5th Avenue to be razed so that a building of its own could be built in 1958. The vision was to become the premier club for Calgary’s business community. That building still stands at 319 5th Avenue SW, albeit recently renovated to better meet the direction of this prestigious club.

“The intention was to be a hosting venue to connect members,” says Toni-Marie Ion-Brown, general manager of Calgary Petroleum Club (CPC). “Hopefully this building will be the little three-storey anomaly in a vibrant downtown full of towers; a small, beautiful, warm place for our members for generations to come.”

While membership was historically comprised of energy executives, the Club has evolved and changed alongside the business landscape in the city. Today’s membership is representative of the business community it serves, with CPC welcoming professionals from energy to services to technology and all businesses in between. It also attracts young professionals, both as members and board members. These businesspeople, aged 35 and under, enjoy lower dues and appealing programming such as leaders and mentors luncheons, which allows seasoned professionals to impart their experience to members who are early in their careers.
“The Leaders and Mentors luncheons are, for my age demographic, quite valuable,” says Raman Sawhney, Calgary Petroleum Club Young Professional Board Member. “The fact that everyone is in this one space – you might not have opportunities to meet these individuals in other capacities.”

Members are generous with their time and eager to connect with members from different sectors, experience levels and varied backgrounds to create a richer experience for all. As a place for businesspeople to network, this leads to amazing and unique opportunities that in some cases are created unintentionally over cocktails and conversation.

“The Club becomes an incubator of collisions, and the ideas and businesses that result from the mash-up of the membership have the CPC to thank,” says Carey Arnett, president of the Board.

The CPC is a valuable place to network and extend members’ business reach in town, across the province, country and the world through its reciprocal club network. The CPC offers a private downtown venue where members can host business meetings, corporate events or social functions with 11 spaces that members can choose from depending on their needs. Whether it’s an AGM for 300 people or an intimate meeting for two, these spaces all offer rich, comfortable décor, cutting-edge technology to support the A/V needs of today’s business meetings and access to world-class food and beverage options.
“The Club occupies a position that isn’t your typical inner city business club. It transcends formal business with fun and educational programming of the kind you would find in a suburbia sports club,” says Arnett.

After all, the CPC has evolved into far more than a business venue. It has become a place for social gatherings and celebrations, where business contacts become friends and families join together for a wide variety of activities. From Children’s Christmas and Easter parties and cooking classes, to wine nights featuring the spectacular wine cellar that boasts more than 14,000 bottles, there is something for every member. One of the most popular events is the Slainte Mhath (which is Gaelic for ‘Cheers to your Health’ and pronounced “slanja va”) Scotch and Other Whiskies Society, a club that invites members to learn about and sample different whiskeys.
“I was a whiskey enthusiast who joined a predominantly wine club and was fittingly asked to start a whiskey club, which we envisioned would consist solely of five events per year, focusing on different themes,” says Ryan Ackers, CPC Board member and Slainte Mhath founder. “Our VIP program quickly grew to 70 members, and we branded whiskey glasses and merchandise, procured private casks worldwide, and embarked on whiskey tours. Now we have gained attention in Calgary, across Canada and Scotland. This would not have been possible without the support of the CPC.”

Members enjoy unique programming at the Club and are always ready to support more serious endeavours. The Club tackles the issue of mental health with a variety of seminars and helps with community initiatives including toy, coat and food drives. The Club is also rallying around Ukrainian refugees, not only employing them at the Club but also tapping the members in an attempt to connect these newcomers with potential employers from their fields of work in Ukraine.

To keep pace with the changes in business and the social evolution of the Club, the members are committed to keeping the space current and relevant. A restoration after a fire in 2005 converted the old billiards room into a stunning wine cellar dining room and that set the direction for the Club moving forward. A comprehensive $7-million renovation in 2017 completed the master plan that went far beyond cosmetic changes.

“The change had to be more than just the change of the façade. It’s a cultural change, so that brought heavier focus on programming and a desire to become a club for the future,” says Ion-Brown.

That meant looking at what tomorrow’s business people would need and implementing it today. It also meant redefining the concept of work to match today’s businesspeople as CPC has adapted to the city’s ever-evolving business environment. As more people are participating in hybrid workplaces, the Club has cultivated a comfortable, convenient ‘WeWork’ style setting where members can set up remotely to work while enjoying the connection to others that’s absent from their work-from-home days. The new second-floor Brew 319 coffee bar by day – prosecco bar by night – is a great place to be productive, with ample power for devices and space to spread out while grabbing a coffee or tea from the barista.
Club members and the public have the opportunity to listen to industry leaders in a variety of backgrounds with the recently launched CPC Back to Business podcast, available every Monday at 7:00 a.m. The membership of the club provides a plethora of interesting guests, making each episode fresh and appealing.

What is even more appealing is the food, and CPC members make it a point to eat at the club given the incredible quality and creativity that comes out of Chef Joanna Astudillo’s kitchen. Whether members are popping in for the lunch buffet, grabbing a take-out meal or enjoying a sumptuous dinner, the food is second to none.

The CPC has truly become a home away from home for its around 3,000 members and they feel a deep sense of ownership over the Club. They are proud of what the CPC is and what it has accomplished within its walls over 75 years. The club is an important part of their work and family lives, in addition to an important nexus of thought leadership, where ideas that impact Calgary, Alberta and Canada are discussed by business leaders, politicians and others.

“It’s a multi-generational club and we want them to celebrate its 100th year, its 125th, its 150th,” say Ion-Brown. With its 75-year foundation built on an incredible culture and engaging programming, Calgary Petroleum Club will have much to celebrate.

319 Fifth Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 0L5

Phone: 403-269-7981
Fax: 403-262-1299