Oilfield businesses, individuals enjoy exclusive restaurant
WILLISTON, N.D. — Oh, to be a fly on the wall at The Bakken Club.
The club is in a storefront on Main Street in Williston, but to get inside takes thousands of dollars and the blessing of a current member.
And with the current members -- Halliburton, Weatherford, Statoil and other big Bakken players -- the deals made amid the exclusivity and privacy that the money buys have to be big.
In Williston, where bars and strip clubs are common, but corporate go-tos like Starbucks are far from the reality, Joel Lundeen saw an opportunity to fill a niche.
"There was just a real void in the market," said Lundeen, co-owner of the club.
Since opening in December, the club has gathered 93 memberships, a mix of individuals and corporations.
On the corporate deal, four members of the company are in the system for charging food at the three-chef restaurant and drinks at the "Member's Bar," and they can bring whomever they want.
"Everybody knows what it's supposed to be like in there. It's never noisy, there's a dress code, and you treat it as ... a business environment," said Brom Lutz, an oilfield consultant who serves on the club's advisory board.
The exclusivity comes partly from the membership fees -- starting at $5,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a corporation, plus monthly food minimums. The $25,000 "founding membership" includes signage within the club, a spot on the advisory board and other perks.
Lundeen said to re-evaluate, he will likely cap membership, which has grown gradually since the club opened in December, once it hits 150 individual and corporate members.
"You want it busy enough to support the restaurant and everything, but you don't want it so busy that the members can't utilize it the way it's meant to be utilized," Lundeen said.
Brianna Lundeen, Joel's daughter and the club’s general manager, said the limited membership also allows for a focus on customer service.
"If somebody comes in here and says, 'Can you get this certain liquor in or this certain beer?' ... we always do that," she said. "People have special requests for gluten-free meals and so on and so forth, so we want to make sure that we can always take care of them and give them what they would like."
Oftentimes, executives from out of town will use the space while they are visiting the region, and there are some desks set up in the rear of the club for workspace, Joel Lundeen said.
The club also has hosted other forms of power; U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer has held meetings at the club. It also hosted a news conference announcing a proposal for a Williston convention center.
Joel Lundeen first came to Williston when he was scouting out the area for an investment banking client three years ago.
He bought the old Elks Lodge there and put in the bar and restaurant. It's now The Williston hotel, one of the nicest places in town.
"We did it partially there but definitely here, with the idea behind the club that it's just some place that people can actually kind have some quiet privacy," whether for deal-making or a date with a spouse, Joel Lundeen said.
"Being a business-social club, there just isn't any place within town where you can go and have that privacy," he said.
Lutz said that with his personal membership, he visits at least once a week to do business at the club or take his wife to dinner there.
One large dining room is used for trainings and other company events, and Joel Lundeen said he expects it to be booked solid for the holiday season. The club also has a couple of more intimate private dining rooms as well, which are booked most nights.
"The nice thing is that it's private," Lutz said. "It's no different than any other country club -- just without the golf."