Executive profiled a collection of beloved Beirut venues which have been in operation for more than 35 years and evoke strong feelings of nostalgia among the city’s residents. The aim was to discover more about their history and learn the secrets of their success, nostalgia aside.
Sporting Beach Club was established in 1953 by George Abu-Nassar who had just graduated from university and was looking for a venture to have a good time with. “He was looking to have a fun time, not to establish a full time business,” says Waleed Abu-Nassar, George’s son and current partner and PR manager of Sporting Beach Club.
Back then, the plot of land Sporting is now on had only a small cafe and a small pool used by the cafe’s clients (the children’s pool in Sporting today). When Abu-Nassar found this land, he was inspired to develop a private beach club on it and convinced a partner to invest with him. “This idea of a beach club was avant garde back then as Beirut was still somehow a conservative city,” says Abu-Nassar.
What truly made Sporting Club take off, however, was the image of exclusivity that George Abu-Nassar created around it, making membership extremely sought after. Waleed Abu-Nassar recounts how the only way one could become a member in Sporting was to be recommended by a member, and, as the members list was not shared with the general public, identifying who to recommend became a challenging experience.
People took to the idea seriously and the Sporting Beach Club grew from one generation to the next with members who were the partners’ friends and friends of friends. “Our slogan at Sporting Beach Club is catering to like-minded people for over 50 years,” says Abu-Nassar, explaining how this gave them the niche of a faithful clientele base, which ensured continuity over the years and created a familial home-like atmosphere at the club.
Sporting also grew in dimension as George Abu-Nassar gradually added land to it until it reached its current area of 10,000 square meters.Today, Waleed has plans to develop Sporting Beach Club’s hospitality venues, such as the Feluka restaurant, which will offer a wide variety of fish platters and be a more dress-up venue than their current Beach Club cafe or the Sunset Lounge to be situated where Decks on the Beach parties take place in the summer.
Abu-Nassar insists that the Beach Club itself, however, will keep the same layout, save for maintenance needs, as it is what gives Sporting its spirit and identity.