Gone are the days of Brooklyn’s hard-pressed freelancers and MacBook-toting screenwriters being forced to pose and network in Manhattan. No more will their choice of chichi restaurants and hotspots in Dumbo be limited to Vinegar Hill House and Atrium. Come May, Downtown Brooklyn’s bougie fixtures will have a bigger competitor on their patch for affluent millennial and hipster hearts: Soho House’s new outpost, Dumbo House.
In yet another sign that Brooklyn is on track to outpace Manhattan as a high-spenders’ destination, New York City’s most fashionable members-only clubs are migrating across the river with the city’s wealthy creative class.
Soho House’s global franchise will begin its Brooklyn expansion with the opening of Cecconi’s Restaurant in Dumbo, before opening doors to its new Dumbo House later this year. (The date for the club’s official opening remains unknown.)
Dumbo House will be the British-born club’s third New York incarnation, joining the original New York outpost in the Meatpacking District and Ludlow House on the Lower East Side, which opened last spring in an imposing neo-gothic building that stands out among the neighborhood’s glut of shoebox-sized galleries, vintage shops, and basement night clubs.
Dumbo House is taking up residence in a 19th century coffee-making warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park, with Cecconi’s occupying the first floor and the rest of the club spread across the second floor. The building is also home to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Empire Stores, a sprawling space already occupied by high-end retail shops, offices, and restaurants. Both Cecconi’s and the club house will offer views of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the East River and downtown Manhattan, along with the club’s signature bougie mismatched but upscale furnishings.
The Wing, an all-women’s club which opened in Manhattan’s Flatiron district earlier this year, is also planning to expand to Downtown Brooklyn, though details of the location have not yet been disclosed. The club is also opening new locations in Soho and Washington D.C., with Soho set to open before the others. The Wing currently has 650 members and roughly 3,000 women on its waitlist clamoring to join the club. “Forty percent of our members live in Brooklyn, so it really made sense for us to open a space there,” Audrey Gelman, co-founder of the club, told The Daily Beast, adding that she lives in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood.
The Wing’s Soho and Brooklyn spaces will be three times as large as its original Flatiron home, and will offer new amenities like private offices, nap rooms, showers, and a lactation room.
For years, the only private membership club in Brooklyn was the Montauk Club, which opened in Park Slope in 1889. The co-ed club is still very much an old-school institution—Brooklyn’s answer to the Knickerbocker Club and other staid, members-only clubs populated by blue-blood aristocrats and hedge funders on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
While the Montauk Club didn’t respond to request for comment regarding the new crop of clubs arriving in Brooklyn, there have been mutterings from some local institutions that clubs like Soho House will create more tension between gentrifiers and longtime Brooklyn residents.
“[Soho House] is a high-priced membership club and the thing that’s unfortunate about it is that it’s something that sort of further reinforces the whole notion of a tale of two cities,” Peter La Bonte, chair of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s community advisory council, told the Brooklyn Paper.
He’s not wrong. Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to flood less-gentrified areas of Brooklyn with $1.4 billion of resources--reportedly toward health care and job creation-- as part of his so-called “Vital Brooklyn” plan, which some longtime residents fear will force them out.
“Why now? You had all these times to make these changes, now Brooklyn is a hot spot—everyone wants a piece of it,” Jasamine Vieira, who lives in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, recently told the New York Times of Cuomo's plan.
Indeed, rents in wealthier areas of the borough are no longer a cheaper alternative to Manhattan. The influx of rich residents has led to a demand for artisanal coffee shops, Michelin-star restaurants, and, now, private social clubs.
Along with Soho House and The Wing, Spring Place, a co-working space and social club for the creative set that opened in Tribeca last year, is planning a new development in Red Hook.
The Wing also has its eye on Williamsburg, which is now considered a top destination for tourists visiting New York City, quite separate from Manhattan. “We’d love to eventually expand there as well, but Downtown Brooklyn was higher up in demand among members,” Gelman said. Let the edgily-dressed networking begin.