Freemasons, the secretive fraternal order that's counted Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, and 13 US presidents among its members, is using hospitality and conferences to boost flagging finances.
After declining membership at the Central London Masonic Centre in Clerkenwell Green put pressure on the institution to raise cash elsewhere, a new subsidiary company was established to focus more keenly on conference and banqueting revenues.
The new venture helped the centre boost commercial turnover from £168,000 in 2002 to £220,820 in the year ended 31 July 2003. The rest of 2003's £1.24m turnover came from Masonic business.
The number of conferences held at the centre is expected to double this financial year. However, managing director Dorian Price is under pressure to ensure that hospitality doesn't clash with or disturb Masonic meetings, which start daily from 3pm.
The venue can host dinners for up to 500 people, who will be catered for by head chef Andre Meehan.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 9 September 2004