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Home Government Meet at Whitby for $300 Bar Tab?

Meet at Whitby for $300 Bar Tab?

Wednesday may be the night to blow your $300 tab.

This Wednesday, June 27, 2012 a joint meeting with the Rye Golf Club RGC Commission and the Rye City Council will be held at 7:00pm at Whitby Castle.  In an email the Rye Golf Club said "All members are welcome to attend!" – actually it's open to the public.

We'll see if the $300 food and bar tab hoisted on Rye Golf Club members makes it to the agenda. The "forced food" reviews are starting to come in. Commenter Bob Zahm reports:

"Time for a first hand report on the food at Whitby Castle – now that I've been forced – against my will, by a committee that does most of it's work behind closed doors – to spend several hundred dollars there if my kids want to swim at the city pool…

food continues to be awful. The wait staff is friendly and seeks to please. But I've had better Tomato Mozzarella salad and better calamari at almost any Italian restaurant I've ever visited. And the tomatoes sure looked and tasted like the greenhouse variety – in June. 5 us at the Buffet plus one round of soft drinks – $118. This is most definitely a thumbs down and not something I will willingly use again.

Just goes to show that the City and the Golf Club have no business retaining Whitby Castle. Such a great location and great looking facility, but it has the feel of the catering hall it really is. Sell the thing. Subcontract it out. Find someone to take it on who has succeeded in the restaurant business. But get it off the taxpayers nickel."

  1. I’d like to offer my first hand report on the food at Whitby Castle.
    The staff is friendly and helpful. The food is impressive and the views unreal. The other night I sat outside on a beautiful night overlooking the water with deer and wild turkey walking along the fairways. Where else in Westchester County can you get this view! The dinner was delicious. I had a perfectly prepared Rib Eye Steak and my guest had a lobster and shrimp special. We each had salads and a bottle of wine…all for less the $100! Are you kidding ME. Where can you get this kind of view, top notch service, and quality food for these prices!

    The members of Rye Golf should be very proud to have such a historic and beautiful facility as the center piece of this beautiful golf club. Rye Golf is a special place that adds value to all our property values.

    I applaud Rye Golf and Whitby Castle on providing a first class facility to it’s members and the citizens of The City of Rye. Keep up the good work and don’t let a small group of negative people distract from the good things that are going on over at the Golf Club!

  2. When I joined Rye Golf Club 7 years ago, Restaurant Associates ran the Castle. Their presence ruined the experience as all they cared about were the big ticket events. Since Rye Golf has taken over the Castle, they have worked hard to win my business by diversifying the menu, improving the food & service, while listening to suggestions.

    Whether a quick burger after a round in the bar area with fellow golfers, a family dinner in the spectacular North Wing, drinks on the terrace overlooking the course & LI Sound, or brunch with Santa – my entire family and group of friends endorse what Rye Golf has done with our facility. My wife chose The Whitby Castle at RGC for my 40th Surprise Birthday Party because she knows it’s my #1 choice. I host clients who have the choice to go anywhere in town for dinner, but choose to dine at the Castle where we find friendly and prompt service.

    Last week, I had the Shrimp & Lobster Tail special which was delicious (Gregory, please add it to the Summer menu)! Two weeks ago, The Member-Guest Golf tournament was perfectly run and my two clients and one work colleague raved about the lunch, golf, and dinner experience.

    There will always be difficult to please people in this world; whether a neighbor, work colleague, client, or friend that is always finding something to complain about. However, the majority of people I associate with at the Club have had nothing but positive experiences.

    It’s time to embrace, endorse, and appreciate how lucky we are to have Rye Golf and The Whitby Castle. If not, there are choices one can make by writing a $75,000 or $120,000 check to join a competing private club in the area. Without a doubt, those negative people will continue to find something to complain about – if they are voted in and accepted into that club – which is unlikely.

  3. Is there any doubt this supposed food review was written prior to the meal being consumed? Clearly, this is an absolute hatchet job. Why do I say that?? just look at the last few sentences: “Sell the thing. Subcontract it out. Find someone to take it on who has succeeded in the restaurant business. But get it off the taxpayers nickel.”

    Bob, you clearly had an agenda when you submitted your review. You have every right to disagree with the policy and to have your opinion heard but to wrap it in with an attack on the folks up at Whitby Castle is a disgrace. Do you not think there is someone responsible for the menu that took your comments pretty hard? Yeah i know you gave them a backhanded compliment with the friendly service but there are people behind the food you attacked. Next time try ordering off the menu.

    My wife and our 3 kids go to Whitby castle for lunch or dinner at least once a week and I entertain clients there all the time to rave reviews. The food is first rate – well above average and the service is fantastic – with views to die for. Not to mention, Arniel mixes the best Dark & Stormy in Westchester County. Gregory, I’ll see you on Saturday afternoon for lunch. Hold a steak salad for me – medium rare.


  4. Why can’t someone just have an opinion with somebody else getting all uptight about it?

    “There will always be difficult to please people in this world; whether a neighbor, work colleague, client, or friend that is always finding something to complain about. ”

    Well, Mitch, you just became that person. Mr. Z’s comments become your bad meal he had at the golf club. He complained about the tomatoes, you complained about his complaining.

    Why can’t he just have his opinion and you have yours.

    Restaurant’s get reviewed. That is the way it goes. The castle needs to be able to compete in the private sector, it can’t just hit up its members to sustain it. What will they do next, require you have a wedding or a bar mitzvah there when you join?

    I think Mr. Z’s larger point was that he felt the castle was “forcing” people to spend money eating there via gov’t dictate.

    I applaud Mr. Z for providing his honest opinion to the citizens of The City of Rye. Keep up the good work and don’t let a small group of negative people distract from the good things that you are doing Mr. Z.

  5. @Wing Michael – Sorry, Wing, but you’re wrong about my review having been written prior to my meal. I went hoping to enjoy a great meal in a wonderful setting with my family. Instead we had awful food, good service – and lest I forget – a dousing of insect repellent that I understand happens every hour or so.

    I commend the staff and the location – previously and again, now. But the food was poor. If others think it’s great, super. They should eat there often. But if the Commission has to force “members” to use the facility, there’s clearly a problem. If there wasn’t, the super location would surely have people waiting in line to get in. But they’re not. Seems to me like the public has already made their assessment and the club has failed. Again.

  6. D,

    It’s not about being uptight or not wanting someone to have an opinion. I know you specifically addressed Mitch in your post but I feel inclined to respond as I also challenged the review. As I put in my post, this debate should be open and honest and people should absolutely have the right to their say about the forced minimum.

    Full disclosure, I am in favor of the minimum. I do think that there will be a fair amount of people that will be very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and this will lead to the club becoming more social and yes it will help them achieve financial stability. Based upon your post, it is clear where your opinion lies as well and that is fine.

    This is about being disingenuous in an effort to achieve a goal. Is there any doubt that Zahm (If we’re gonna refer to people by their last name and all) had a negative opinion on the forced $300 food minimum prior to going to the restaurant? Or do you believe he went to dinner with an open mind and as a result of a mediocre tomato he came to the sweeping conclusion that the castle is a failure, it will never succeed and therefore should be sold etc etc. If you believe the latter, I happen to believe you are incorrect. He went to dinner with an agenda – plain and simple and his opinion should therefore be ignored by the folks that are really looking for open and honest debate on a tricky issue.

    Wing (AKA Michael)

  7. Couple Follow up Comments:
    To Robert Z:
    I’ve read your posts in the past and it’s obvious “in my opinion” you didn’t go with an open mind to enjoy a meal at Whitby. You went with a preconceived mind set that the $300 minimum is unfair and were looking for reasons to validate yourself. It’s clear that you were looking to find faults so you could continue to opine on the $300 minimum.

    With regard to the comments regarding opinions and people getting upset. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, Robert Z is taking it well beyond a simple opinion to the level of attacking the Rye Golf Club, Whitby Castle, and it’s committee. His post are a smear campaign with a political agenda behind it.

    Majority of member clubs have minimums. That doesn’t equate to being “Forced”.

    The other comment about government dictate is even more comical. Yes the City of Rye owns the Golf Club. However, Rye Golf isn’t supported by tax dollars. Membership dues support the club…not the City. You have the right to join or not to join.

    Suggestion for all those members that like to complain…Rye Playland has a nice pool with no minimums. You can have a swim and a hot dog and save yourself a couple dollars.

  8. @Evans – glad to see you can read my mind. As I told Michael (W), I went with an open mind. I don’t like to waste my time or money – not even if it has already been effectively taken by the club. If the food had been good, I’d have been complementary of it. It wasn’t, so I’m not. No one, you included, has refuted my other points; e.g., if the food is so good, and given the already stipulated beautiful setting and helpful staff, why isn’t there a line out the door? The answer has to be related to the quality of the food.

    Yes, I have made previous posts about the $300 minimum which I think is absolutely wrong. Both in the actual assessment – this is a public “club” open to all comers, not a private country club – and the way in which it just appeared on renewal applications. There’s a real transparency problem there. (I’ve found the commissions’ meeting minutes, but still do not see agenda or supporting materials published ahead of meetings (the joint meeting tonight being the exception). Yes, the club is self sustaining, but that doesn’t make the way in which the fee was imposed appropriate. And dropping the castle would allow the club to lower fees overall because of the subsidy required to maintain the castle.

    So, kill the fee and make the castle stand on its own. If it can’t, should we really be subsidizing it? The city has lots of other infrastructure for which it needs to pay. Selling the castle could make a nice down payment on the road repairs, etc that Rye so badly needs.

  9. One more thing needs to be said – those serving on the Commission should be thanked for their service. I disagree with a particular decision, but the members of the Commission are the one’s giving of their time to make the pool, the course, and the castle a quality facility.

  10. Bob,

    I would be happy to refute some additional points you made. Evans already refuted you on the point that the club is on the taxpayers nickel.

    In your post, you state: “The answer has to be related to the quality of the food.” This implies the only thing you have to do to have a successful restaurant is to have good food. I would argue one of the things that a restaurant needs, specifically one in the suburbs is support from the community and in this case, support from its members. There you are on the front page of the myrye.com web site absolutely attacking the food. That should help business. Who knows? This may in fact drive more business away and the minimum hits $500 next year. This was all based upon a single trip to the buffet. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a buffet and been blown away by the quality of the food nor have i expected it. A buffet is what it is. Large quantities of food prepared hours in advance with tons of variety.

    Your single conclusion that the quality of the food is the sole reason why a restaurant struggles is similar to saying the quality of a TV show is simply dependent on its TV ratings. If the ratings are high, the show is great. We all know that is not true. If you remember the show “Cheers”, it was years before they ever mustered up a true following of viewers. It didn’t mean the show wasn’t good.

    Next point: this is a public “club” open to all comers, not a private country club –

    hmmm??? If it is a public club, I would imagine my non member friends can get tee times and go to the pool whenever they want? I don’t think that is the case but maybe I have that wrong.

    Now, the restaurant is open to the public – that is true. I would argue this quasi private/public restaurant status is another reason why it struggles. I’ve had to tell people that have lived in rye for years that the restaurant is public so I do believe this is something that inhibits its success.

    By my calculations, you have $182 left on your minimum. Give the menu a try.

    PS I actually do think the minimum should be staggered. Meaning, pool only members should have a lower minimum than comprehensive members.


  11. @Mike – Rather than refuting any of my points, what has been done is to post alternative opinions. Just want to be clear.

    Re getting community support, wouldn’t that happen if the food was good? But you’re right, quality of food is not sufficient to garner market support. Pricing must also be appropriate for the quality. I believe that’s not the case at Whitby. Now, I’ve not had lunch at the “new” Castle, but will commit to trying a non-buffet dinner and/or lunch because you’re right that one data point is not sufficient.

    As to the club being a public club, it is open to any resident of Rye who wants to join; aka it is a public club. It’s apparently being open to anyone outside the city who wants to join because of the need for membership revenue would seem to reinforce this assessment.

    But I remain confused by how charging a $300 minimum to members to get them to “try the restaurant” could be viewed as a possibly effective strategy for increasing sufficiently to close the Whitby’s revenue gap. Call the $300 fee what it is – an increase in membership rates. That would at least be honest.

    Based on last evening’s meeting and the financial materials available on the City’s web site, it looks like selling / subletting the Whitby would be a pretty quick way to address the Club’s financial hole. That might alienate some of the [slightly] inebriated attendees at last night’s meeting, but it would be a more rational approach to fixing the clubs financial situation than creating a new fee.

  12. Bob,

    Why do you persist and continue to state that Rye Golf Club is public? The city of Rye does own the facility and yes any of our wonderful citizens has the option of joining – this does not mean the “club” is public. ONe a person chooses to become a member, they agree to abide by the club rules. RGC is “operated” privately and is not funded by tax dollars. To refute you on this, I call your attention to the rye golf club web site where in fact the club refers to itself as “Members Only” – AKA Private. There is an elected governing board of the club that makes these types of decisions. If you don’t like the decisions, you have a few choices available to you:

    1. Not renew – You threatened this earlier in the year but apparently you chose to renew. By the way, we do not know each other but I’m glad you did.
    2. Try and get elected to the board and influence decisions that way
    3. Vote for people who share your opinion.
    4. Complain about it on myrye.com

    You’ve chosen the latter for sure which is okay. I felt compelled to weigh in on this because your first post was clearly a hatchet job as a way to progress your agenda. That is what I had a problem with. I’m glad you are planning to use the remaining balance of your minimum (By the way, this is not a fee because you are receiving consideration in return for your $300) and try the menu. I’m gonna throw you a softball now. Would you have a preferred a $200 fee or a $300 minimum? I know I know, “the food is so bad I would just as soon pay the $200”. I’m sure that is coming.

    I do believe you’ve been refuted a number of times now. The tax issue, the public vs private, the fee and in my last post your conclusion that the restaurant is a failure and should be sold because of the quality of the food. This last one, I’ll grant you is a little more challenging to refute because it is your opinion but I believe I offered up valid reasons why the restaurant has not been wildly successful. I also dine there way more often than you do and have had feedback from many other friends and clients that all think the food is very good. Your one trip to the buffet did not compel me to think your conclusion was correct. If you don’t think this refutes you, so be it.

    Cheers Bob, would be happy to buy you a coke when I see you up at the club. As Bill O’Reilly likes to say, I’ll give you the last word.


  13. Mike W – I continue to refer to Rye Golf as public because ANYONE can join. It’s not very “private” if there’s no control over membership aside from residency. So, I’ll stick with the public label.

    My first post was simply a statement of a very poor dining experience at Whitby Castle. If remain convinced that my experience is not unique based on the Whitby’s awful finances. If the food was good and it was priced right, the beautiful setting would certainly be sufficient to overcome the location off by itself to draw a crowd. It doesn’t. And it probably won’t so long as it is run by an organization that’s much better at running a public golf/swim club.

    I’ll try a non-buffet meal for only because I want to give the place a second chance. This has nothing to do with the $300 minimum – it would be useful to see by season’s end how many people actually used their minimum; even more interesting to see how many spent materially more than their minimum. But to answer your question $100 or $200 would have made no difference. I disagree with the additional fee for something I don’t want. I also disagree with the fee for the way it was imposed – with extremely limited transparency. It certainly was NOT raised in the city council budget hearings.

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