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New president looking to steer Calgary Petroleum Club through COVID-19 storms

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Article author:

David Parker • • Calgary Herald

Release date:

November 25, 2020 • • November 25, 2020 • • 3 minutes read Grant Zawalsky began his tenure as the 72nd President of the Calgary Petroleum Club. Photo from supplied photo /.Postmedia network

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After serving as a long-time and active board member of the Calgary Petroleum Club, Grant Zawalsky looked forward to his tenure as the club’s 72nd president.

The report presented at its March meeting confirmed that the club was in great shape after exceeding its budget for fiscal 2019. Then COVID-19 met – and his term of office will now be the shortest in the club’s history, as the annual general meeting could only be held in September, which cut his time as president by four months.

But Zawalsky, the managing partner of Burnett Duckworth Palmer (BDP) – the law firm he has worked with since moving from Edmonton in 1986 – is ready to do whatever it takes to run the club in more than difficult circumstances.

General Manager Toni-Marie Ion-Brown says although some memberships have been lost – either because they feel cautious about eating or because companies need to cut their spending – the club has added many new members and kept the number steady at 3,000.


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Much of the success is due to the massive renovations to the facility and the new incentives to attract a younger membership.

The club on 5th Avenue SW – long referred to as the “center of Calgary business” – has owned the 60,000 square meter, two-story building since 1958.

Always an important venue for events and meetings, the impressive Devonian Room has space for a cocktail reception for 500 people and 320 seats. It has a total of 15 private rooms that were very busy for breakfast meetings, business lunches and private dinners before the pandemic.

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However, the decor needed to be brightened up, and in 2017 the decision was made to give the club $ 7 million interior taper.

Most noticeable were the changes to the Renfrew Lounge a few steps away from the foyer, which opened the space to the windows along 5th Avenue, allowing for a much brighter space.

It’s still very popular, and during this time of social distancing table spreading, requires booking to get a seat at lunchtime.

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Another important decision was the creation of a special reduced membership category for young professionals. Zawalsky says that not only has this resulted in many new members joining, but listening to their needs has brought a number of new offerings with it.

A new Scotch Club – a club within the club – quickly became a favorite, and its 235 bottles of private label single malt sold out quickly. A larger keg is expected every day and most of the bottles have already been ordered by enthusiasts.


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The Scotch Club meets in the wine cellar amidst the club’s valuable collection with 7,500 bottles of fine wine. Another 7,000 bottles are in another cellar. If the COVID-19 restrictions are a good thing, members can now buy bottles to take home. To date, $ 150,000 worth of specialty wines have made their way through the club’s front door, according to Ion-Brown.

Many other changes to the amenities and structure of club membership ensure that Zawalsky’s tenure remains healthy. Meetings are closed and Christmas parties canceled, but the annual father and son Christmas dinner is sold out. If the dedicated members continue to support the club as their choice for food – great meals under the guidance of Chef Sean Cutler – and the many reservations made for 2021 can be accommodated, the Calgary Petroleum Club will be in great shape during its tenure.


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David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at info@davidparker.ca.

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