In February, despite “not being much a golfer,” David Mortimer bought the New London Country Club for $2.8 million and renamed it the Great Neck Country Club.
In the months that have followed, Mortimer has forged a turnaround of the once insolvent club. When he bought the club it had fewer than 180 members, now it has 350 with 70 on a waiting list to join; the banquet hall was once rarely used, it has since held 150 banquets since March; the restaurant was once small and closed to the public, it will reopen in December and will be open to all.
“What we wound up doing was a heck of a lot more than what I planned to do when I bought it,” Mortimer told the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission last week.
At that meeting, the commission approved a proposal by Mortimer to increase the parking lot at the country club to accommodate the restaurant, which was previously open only to members. He also asked to do further work on the maintenance facility and the area where the carts and golf equipment are cleaned, although the commission said it would need more time to review those proposals before making a ruling.
Mortimer has hired Brian “Butch” Langley, who was the longtime manager of food, beverage and banquets at the Groton Inn and Suites, to run the restaurant and banquet hall at the Great Neck Country Club. The restaurant will be called "Langley's,” and should open in December, Mortimer said.
Mortimer said the restaurant will hold 45 people inside the bar area and 90 people inside the dining area and will be a “family restaurant.” He stressed it would not be too high cost and would be closed by 10 every night.
“There certainly aren’t going to be any late nights,” Mortimer told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “We want it to be family-friendly, like everything else at the club.”
Unlike many other golf courses, the profits from the restaurant and the banquet hall will be used to keep down the cost of golf memberships, Mortimer said.
Dime Bank foreclosed on the New London Country Club at the end of 2011 after the club made $4 million in investments into the course itself and was faced with declining memberships in a bad economy. Mortimer and his wife Ann bought the club in February from Dime Bank for $2.8 million and, thanks to the $4 million investment into the grounds, had to do little to the course itself.
However, he has redone just about everything else. He is still in the process of expanding the restaurant, redid the club house and, as mentioned, plans to redo the maintenance facility and the area where the carts and equipment are cleaned.
To increase memberships, he did away with costly initiation fees and set annual membership prices at $2,700 (plus tax) for a single person, $3,700 for family memberships and $500 for a single junior membership. To attract young players, he also offered an associate membership for $1,500 for people aged 22 to 35, although some playing restrictions apply.
It worked. He told the Planning and Zoning Commission he sold 350 memberships this year, which will serve 440 people, and there are another 70 people on a waiting list to join. He also had the banquet hall used far more than before and hopes the restaurant will mean another revenue stream for the club.
Mortimer is a lifelong Waterford resident and the CEO of the East Hartford-based Firth Rixton, an international supplier of specialty products for the aerospace industry and Caterpillar. His lawyer told Patch he has been successful through that venture and is not looking as the golf club as a moneymaker, but more as something he hopes to break-even.