If you have spent a $2800 annual fee on an ‘every house’ membership of the private Soho House clubs, believing this would give you access to the group’s gorgeously decorated 17 outposts all around the world, you may be feeling a little peeved this weekend.
In New York, the new ‘Ludlow House’—a former funeral home on the Lower East Side, with galleries, cool stores, and cool restaurants jostling for hipster attention—is not accepting members with ‘every house’ cards.
Only ‘founder members’ of the latest outpost of the British-born club members—which officially opened on May 23--are welcome for the first few weeks. (The Daily Beast requested, but was not granted, a tour of the premises.)
This weekend, the global club franchise is also opening another outpost on the West Coast, Little Beach House Malibu, where the layers of exclusivity are even more imposing: a $1500 premium to access the property on top of the $2800 'every house' annual membership fee.
And in Malibu you must pass the muster of a special local membership committee, who will decree you good enough to enter their exclusive enclave--resembling the selection process of more traditional private clubs.
"We respect the communities that we go to, and everyone in Malibu was really passionate about keeping this club within the fabric of what the city is," Soho House membership director Samantha Stone told The Hollywood Reporter.
The 10,000-square-foot Malibu property is relatively small compared to other Soho Houses.
Situated on Carbon Beach (nicknamed 'Billionaire's Beach' after the obscenely wealthy Hollywood magnates who own ocean-front properties, like Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg), the minimalist space was formerly home to Larry Ellison's Italian restaurant, Nikita.
A spokesperson for the Soho House confirmed in an email to The Daily Beast that the relatively small Little Beach House club is catering to the tight-knit top-tier Hollywood community of Malibu and surrounding coastal areas.
When asked if Ludlow House’s “founder members” were investors, a spokesperson clarified in vague terms that the global club network always has a “base of of founder members” who comprise “the first group of people who are members of the new House.”
As the British-born club continues its global expansion, with properties in cosmopolitan cities from Los Angeles to Istanbul, the Malibu house stands as an enclave within an enclave--a way of ensuring that the private membership club maintains its badge of exclusivity while opening other houses within the same city.
Though the Soho House already has a thriving outpost in West Hollywood, they recently confirmed their plans to open another house in downtown Los Angeles in addition to Malibu.
In North America, the other SH outposts are in Chicago, Miami, and Toronto. However, the group, perhaps surprisingly given all the tech money flowing through the city (and its established creative class too), has no plans to open in San Francisco.
There are currently four Soho Houses in London, including the flagship on Dean Street, and two in the English countryside; two in New York City, with reported ambitions to open a third in Brooklyn.
They will also open houses in Barcelona and Mumbai later this year, and have plans for a property in Amsterdam.
If money is any measure of the Soho House's success, the business was valued at roughly $366 million when billionaire business mogul Ron Burkle purchased a 60 percent stake of the company in 2012. Founder Nick Jones reportedly owns 10 percent of the franchise, and Richard Caring owns 30 percent.
“This is a completely different business model from that of old-school private clubs,” said Tarul Kapoor, managing director of Kapoor and Kapoor Hospitality, a consulting firm that works with private clubs around the world.
“The Soho House offers members a homey setting to meet other people of their social stature,” said Kapoor, noting that it’s also “a cross between that and a nightclub, except they handpick good-looking young hipsters to join the nightclub.”
The decoration of the two new houses likely mirrors some familiar aesthetics of Soho Houses everywhere: mismatched, but very smart upscale furnishings; comfy, worn leather seats; exposed brick; cleverly curated artwork for the walls (important this, when so many artists and art-adjacent professionals are members).
While not all clubs look exactly the same, the broad Soho House look is of a fashionable British country weekend away with a few site-specific boho, metropolitan--and now beach, hello Malibu!--flourishes, like exposed brick walls and trendy lighting fixtures.
While most established private clubs are packed with gray heads, the Soho House is promoting youth.
“It’s a successful concept and it makes sense, because most thirtysomething people will only go to exclusive country clubs if their families are members,” said Kapoor, noting that it can take years for even the most marquee names to be admitted, often because they’re waiting for a slot to open up. (Tom Brady is reportedly on the waiting list at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where many of the members are blue-blood Yankees).
Soho House, however, is “growing the business just like the Ritz Carlton or the Four Seasons,” except that their building model is such that each house is uniquely packaged for the neighborhood and the clientele in that neighborhood.
So we can expect that the Ludlow House crowd and vibe will have a distinctly Lower East Side feel, attracting the types of people one associates with Ludlow Street today: a once-gritty neighborhood turned absurdly hip and sexy concrete jungle that, in recent years, has seen an explosion of shopping boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants that offer novelty cocktails with ingredients like sea plankton and wheatgrass.
As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith observed of the area: “You can’t throw a cellphone without hitting a gallery, and quite a few are moving targets.”
That may be true, but what is also true is that—as ever with Jones and his canny Soho House planners—they have identified a fashionable area to make their own, to both echo and influence, and all in the best possible taste.