What was that line that Groucho Marx once said? “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” True, Marx was talking, in assumed jest, about his resignation from the Friar’s Club, but as the hospitality industry expands into the lucrative members-only club market, it’s not too hard to feel like a traveller who’s on the outside looking in. What do these swishy places have that is so exclusive anyway? The reason the market is moving to more and more clubs is not to be exclusionary, per se, but rather to offer a new way of actually connecting with others, and of enjoying the best a property has to offer.
Take the Gansevoort Hotel Group, which just announced the launch of The Curtain, a new property in London that’s both a hotel and private members club. To be opened in East London’s Shoreditch area in summer 2016, the property will house 120 guest rooms and six suites, plus a club with three spaces dedicated to private members.
“This is an exciting new direction for us,” Michael Achenbaum, group president for Gansevoort, said in a press release. “With the development of the hotel and the private members club, we will [inject] something fresh to create fluid, multilayered experiences for hotel guests, members and locals alike.”
Members of The Curtain Club will enjoy access to dedicated spaces for their use, including a whisky bar, music venue and a garden room. Some amenities will be shared with hotel guests, like a screening room, but there will also be events for members only.
In this way, Gansevoort is adopting the model of the ever-expanding Soho House, which has recently undertaken a global expansion. With both hotel properties and guest-only amenities, and houses across the globe, the creative outpost is fixing to become a staple of the well-travelled creative class, with recent outposts in Istanbul, Oxfordshire and plans for a second location in New York, on the ever-hip Lower East Side. (Plans for Mumbai, Malibu and Hong Kong are also afoot.)
Of course, the Gansevoort and Soho House represent one sort of accessible luxury. For some, there is an almost impenetrable elite level of private club, where the sky is the limit.
In Hong Kong, for instance, the Kee Club is the spot for transcontinental mingling and deal making, and its exclusive salon (which features the original Arne Jacobsen “Egg Chair,” of all things) regularly hosts Mick Jagger and Gwyneth Paltrow (membership is only offered via a proposer, and comes with a hefty price tag — the sort of which if you have to ask how much it is, you shouldn’t even bother).
In slightly chillier climates, the Yellowstone Club is a sky haven for the ultra 0.1 per cent, where slopes are the first order of business … well, maybe with a side billion-dollar deal or two, as Bill Gates and Peter Chernin are also members. The cost of entry? A deposit of a mere US$300,000.
And then there’s Silencio: The club with the coolest name is also one of the most inaccessible in the world. Founded by filmmaker David Lynch in 2011, the Paris club’s extremely tight membership is due to the fact that Silencio considers itself the modern-day “successor to salons,” containing several galleries, an art library and a movie theatre.
If you know somebody special, and have the financial means to do so, then, well, the world is your private club. Step right in.