Danish Athletic Club left on life support

Brooklyn Daily
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A once vibrant, 120-year-old Scandanavian social club on 65th Street is on life support — and could close its doors for good by the end of the year.

The Danish Athletic Club, a quaint holdout from the days when Scandanavian immigrants living in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights were an active and tight-knit community, has lost so many members that management is gloomy about its future.

“Business has slowed down a lot on account that the neighborhood has changed so much,” said Reidun Thompson, manager of the social club between Seventh and Eighth avenues — an area once known as a Scandinavian stronghold, but is now shared by Bay Ridge’s Hispanic and Chinese communities. “The people who used to come years ago are no longer around. They passed away.”

Thompson expects that the club will continue to operate through the summer.

“Then we will decide what we are going to do,” she said.

The Danish Athletic Club boasted 750 members during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Members and their guests would pack the dining hall while eating, drinking and dancing the night away, Thompson recalled. But that number has dwindled to about 50 people — most of them inactive participants, observed a member.

“Only a handful show up for meetings,” said Leif Kuppen. “If we lose this place — that’s it. It’s a closed door for the Scandinavian people,” he said.

The people of Norway, Sweden and Denmark have called Brooklyn home for 400 years. From the mid-1800s through World War II, its Nordic population in the borough surged as stevedores, carpenters and shipbuilders came to work on the docks. After World War II, approximately 60,000 Norwegians settled into Bay Ridge, according to one estimate — a link the neighborhood tried to revive last year by becoming sister cities with a Norwegian town.

But that hasn’t stopped the club’s downward spiral, and management has tried to invigorate the fiscal slump by offering $50 annual memberships, $15.95 dinners, and renting out space for parties — a strategy some say should be changed to drum up more support.

“You could make a cultural center out of it,” said Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Scandinavian East Coast Museum. “There are people who are using the place who would like to become members.” But one member said it may be time to call it a day — and already had a grim timeline laid out for the Athletic Club.

“Probably a couple more years — tops,” said Dave Auerbach in between mouthfuls of pot roast in the club’s near-empty dining room. “I’d like to see it hold a bit, but I’m a realist.”

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at
Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reader feedback

Walter Willumsen from Farsund Norway says:
Det er too bad--- den eneste Norsktalende restaurant igjen i Brooklyn.
Feb. 5, 2012, 11:59 am
Nancy Granholm says:
All the Swedish clubs are gone from Chicago Imiss them, why is that. I grew up with them although I was born in Chi.80 years ago.
Feb. 6, 2012, 1:41 pm
david orenge from bed-stuy says:
It's always sad to watch a dwindling ethnic population in a neighborhood. Growing up in the Bronx, I watched a very vibrant Jewish and Yiddish neighborhood succumb to what is seemingly an inevitability in New York City (with that notable exception of Chinese-American neighborhoods). To me, it was symbolized by constant death notices on the bulletin board and a large, several-foot high stack of The Jewish Daily Forward in Yiddish dwindling into several copies and finally to none. What can you do?
Feb. 6, 2012, 2:22 pm
Christian Jensen from Ottawa, Ontario Canada says:
As a 9 yr old Canadian-Danish boy visiting my uncle in 1949, I was spoiled by so many club members. My uncle Mike Jensen was the manager of the club and I would walk from Senator St. to come and watch baseball on TV and sometimes they would put on the cartoons for me. At Xmas, there was a huge party and the kids would sit up on Santa's lap and he would hand us a gift. Mine was a big kit of a metal service station and also a pick-up record player. That evening, as we were leaving, I was ask to kiss a pretty little girl ( I must have known her). As a shy boy with girls, I refused but my father and aunt insisted so I ..... bit her on the cheek. I still remember this and I am now 73. If she reads this, I ask her to forgive me. I know better now!!!
Seeing the state of the club today saddens me. I am shocked to see that it is in a middle of a Chinese community.... never dreamed this would happened.
Aug. 23, 2013, 9:46 pm
Arne Brinkland from Orange, Ca says:
In the late sixties and up to mid seventies, we had a couple of Danish/Norweigian/Finnish soccer teams in the Danish Athletic Club in Brooklyn.
Many of those guys have moved back to the old country, but on August 16-2014 we will have a 40 year reunion in a Kro in west Sjaeland--Long live the memories from Brooklyn.
July 5, 2014, 7:04 pm
Arne Brinkland from Orange CA says:
WE will have one more RE-UNION of all the soccer players and fans from the 70's and 80's on Sat. Oct. 8 2016, right there in the Danish Athletic Club in Brooklyn.
Geoff ( the British guy) and Coach Leif Pedersen and my self, Arne B, and 40 other former players will be there.
Contact them and join us.
July 25, 2016, 5:46 pm

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