Petroleum Club

Jim Anderson, right, chats with longtime friend Jim Ripley, left, at the Casper Petroleum Club as they await election results in November 2012. The club announced will close its doors Saturday.

File, Star-Tribune

The Casper Petroleum Club will close Saturday after serving as a hub for industry, politics and business for 67 years.

Club owners originally intended to shut down at the end of the year. They announced the closure in a newsletter in early September, citing 15 years of declining membership.

However, remaining open that long in an attempt to honor reservations and give staff time to find employment hinged on an uptick in business, said club president Forrest Leff.

“We had to have a really strong September, and that’s just not the case,” he said.

The club relied on membership fees. Despite a number of efforts to boost the ranks over the years, such as reducing fees and opening membership to people outside the energy sector, the club has not been able to sustain high numbers, he said.

“The membership has to support the club, and we just don’t have enough members to do that,” Leff said. “We are losing members a lot faster than we are getting members.”

Nowadays, industry and civic organization membership is in decline, Leff said. Many private membership organizations that fail to attract young people have experienced the same fate as the Petroleum Club.

“This is a problem with private clubs all over the country. This isn’t an isolated event,” Leff said. “It’s basically the younger generation is not clubbers.”

The Petroleum Club began as an elite center for industry leaders, where deals were made over dinner and cocktails. It survived a number of economic busts over the years and bought its current facility in the mid-1980s, when oil had sunk to $10 a barrel.

Its demise signals the end of an era in Casper, where the oil industry was once the center of the town’s culture as well as its commerce.

The Petroleum Club has about 18 employees, some part-time, Leff said.

Staff members were alerted early in the month of a possible Oct. 1 closing.

The club will have normal hours throughout the week and will close after dinner Saturday.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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