GULFPORT — If you’re looking for a special meeting site with a panoramic view of downtown Gulfport, the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor and the Mississippi Sound, then check out the Great Southern Club located on the top floor of the tallest building in Gulfport, One Hancock Plaza.
“It is a beautiful restaurant and meeting facility,” said Steve Dickerson, business development coordinator for the City of Gulfport. “The big meeting room has views of the city from three sides. It is a lovely facility, a nice addition to the city that we are fortunate to have in Gulfport.”
The Great Southern Club is located on the 15th floor of the One Hancock Plaza, the development that anchored the redevelopment of downtown Gulfport in the early 1980s. Although it is a private club, the facilities are open for rental to non-members for parties of as few as to people to more than 200.
John Clark, general manager and chef at the Great Southern Club, said the club offers a refreshing change of pace from other similar luncheon or dinner meeting facilities for businesses. The upscale facilities and service make the Great Southern Club popular for those times when a business wants to make a special impression.
“When former President George Bush visited the Gulf Coast, the function welcoming him was held at our Sunset Ballroom,” Clark said. “We have investment houses in town who do investment presentations to clients in the Sunset Ballroom. We’re also popular with insurance groups. The new jet service from Canada, Canada 3000, was introduced to the Gulf Coast in our Sunset Ballroom. It’s something the Coast can show off to visitors.”
Clark, a certified executive chef, is a northern transplant who came to the Coast to leave harsh winters behind. He worked previously as an executive chef for Full Service Inn in Ohio, and also at a banquet conference facility in Michigan. So, although the name of his establishment is Great Southern Club, the food is a diverse mixture that includes some Southern food, some traditional northern dishes and a number of international dishes.
“There is a great deal of selection here,” Clark said. “You can have a breakfast meeting with a continental breakfast, a buffet or plated luncheon, and an afternoon meeting with light refreshments and snacks. Or you can have a dinner meeting and conference where you bring clients in for a presentation and a full dinner with everything from local seafood cuisine to filet mignon.”
The Great Southern Club, founded in 1988, is named in honor of the tradition established by Captain Joseph T. Jones in 1902 when he built the Great Southern Hotel at what is now the intersection of 25th Avenue and U.S. 90 in Gulfport. The hotel had a dramatic view of the Coast for a half century, a role now adopted by the Great Southern Club.
“We have a 360-degree panoramic view of downtown Gulfport and the water,” Clark said. “We’re conveniently located from the airport because we’re right on Highway 49. We’re minutes from the airport, Interstate 10 and the hotels.”
With the advent of dockside gaming, many meetings and conventions have been drawn to the new casino hotel and convention facilities. The Great Southern Club offers something a little different.
“We don’t have one thing the casinos have: gambling,” Clark said. “The casinos are a totally different operation than ours. The groups that would meet at casinos are not just looking for a place for a meeting or reception. They are also looking for entertainment within the same property.”
While Great Southern Club doesn’t have entertainment offerings like the indoor circus Alegria at Beau Rivage, it does have a parquet wood dance floor and an area for bands and disk jockeys to provide music for events such as wedding receptions and class reunions. Clark said that club also has the advantage that visitors don’t have to walk through a crowded, noisy, congested area in order to get to their meeting room.
There is also a covered city parking garage at One Hancock Plaza, so the weather is not an issue in parking at the facility.
Sunset Ballroom reception and dinner menu prices are competitive with the rest of the Gulf Coast for offerings that include maple pepper pork served with Creole maple glaze, stuffed portabello mushrooms and “drunken” barbecue salmon, which is salmon “marinated to a near drunken state in bourbon.” Coconut shrimp and seafood fritters are other favorites.
Reservations can be made by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, a fax to (228) 868-3419, or by calling (228) 868-8619. Menus for the members dining facility are changed weekly, and can be found on the Web site www.greatsouthernclub.com, which also includes membership information. For members, lunch is served Monday through Friday and dinners are served Wednesday through Saturday evening.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com or (228) 872-3457.