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Yokota Air Base Officers' Club General Manager Linda Danner decorated the club's foyer Tuesday with her mother, Kathleen Powell, for the New Year's Eve party. The club was named best in the Air Force for fiscal 2001-02 and plans to expand its programs in 2003.
Yokota Air Base Officers' Club General Manager Linda Danner decorated the club's foyer Tuesday with her mother, Kathleen Powell, for the New Year's Eve party. The club was named best in the Air Force for fiscal 2001-02 and plans to expand its programs in 2003. ()

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — For the officers club at this base west of Tokyo, improving on the past year will be a hard feat.

The club was named best in the Air Force for fiscal 2001-02, a first for Yokota, according to club general manager Linda Danner.

“We’re shooting to win it again for next year,” she said, while hanging up decorations inside the club on New Year’s Eve.

About 10 hours before doors opened for one of the biggest parties of the year, the club was unusually empty.

Danner gave her staff the day off and decorated the club with the help of her mother and a few friends.

“I try to give them as much time off as I can, so when crunch time comes, they are there for me,” she said of her more than 75 employees.

Her management style appears to be working.

The Air Force recognized the club for offering not only the most — but some of the best — programs: theme nights, such as “Martini and Jazz,” and kids’ parties to celebrate Mardi Gras, Halloween and other occasions.

Last fiscal year, the club gave $415,000 in benefits, prizes, theme nights and membership days to members, while making $161,000 in profits, Danner said. “We increased our bottom-line profit from the year before,” she said.

The popular “Butcher’s Choice” program, held Friday and Saturday nights, boosted Friday dining sales by 200 percent, Danner said. Diners may choose from 12 selections of raw meat, iced down on a butcher’s block table, and cooked upon ordering. Choices range from swordfish to pork chops.

The program was “a brainstorm idea” and began about 2½ years ago, after Danner overheard someone on base say, “I would like to be able to go to a butcher shop.”

Membership at the club stands at 897, which represents 96 percent of potential clientele. Customer satisfaction, based on Interactive Customer Evaluation surveys, is also 96 percent, Danner said. The club hosts more than 50 programs a month, from karaoke to meals with a theme.

“Everything is just programs, programs, programs, so we don’t get bored,” Danner said.

Danner wants club members to have fun.

“When I first got here, I was bored to death,” said Danner, who came to Yokota in 1999 as the club’s assistant manager. “I figured everyone else must be, too, so we just started having fun.”

The new year bring big plans for Danner, too. She intends to bring back “Aficionado Night,” an evening of cigars and wine sampling, this year on a grander scale.

Maj. Richard Pakola, a lawyer with the 374th Airlift Wing legal office, said the club seems to offer a lot more programs than those he’s belonged to in the States.

“They always give out gifts, and the theme nights are fun and interesting,” he said. “They really go out of their way here.”

But Danner is most excited about the opening of a new Mexican restaurant on Yokota’s East side.

Pancho Villa, scheduled to open in February or March, will be a concession of the officers club, Danner said. The club upkeeps the building in exchange for a percentage of sales. Owner Dave Scott also runs a Pancho Villa between Camp Zama and the Sagamihara housing area. That location will stay open.

Enlisted ranks may dine at the O’Club for lunch, Sunday brunch and when the Enlisted Club’s Charlie T’s restaurant is closed for special occasions. But otherwise, the biggest competition comes from off base, Danner said.

“I try to keep people interested by doing things differently,” she said.

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