The surging popularity of private members clubs, halted by the pandemic, has not only regained steam—it’s gaining momentum. A new crop of openings in London, New York, L.A., and Miami are signaling shifting post-pandemic social tastes.
Members clubs have long been woven into the social fabric of London, succeeding 18th-century coffeehouses as a place for well-heeled Brits to eat, drink, and socialize around swanky decor at a prestigious address. They soon arrived in other major cities over the next century, particularly along the East Coast in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and New York. Today, private clubs are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence. They were already on the rise before the pandemic, which only accelerated their popularity once the world started opening up again—and upper-crust city dwellers started feeling the need to socialize in more curated settings.
“The pandemic was a catalyst for things that were already in motion and the members club experience was already in motion in New York based on what was out there for the consumer already,” Scott Sartiano, who owns Zero Bond with Will Makris, told WWD. “I think that people will pay extra and spend extra time becoming a member of a place where they feel it’s a curated environment. And I think the pandemic just put a match to gasoline a little bit on that.”
New York in particular has become an epicenter of the members club renaissance, with Zero Bond, Casa Cipriani, and Chapel Bar at Neuehouse all having opened within the past two years. Opening this month, Aman New York will offer access to 100 people for a $100,000 initiation fee and $15,000 a year. The service includes perks at all the properties across the portfolio, a private nutritionist, and exclusive experiences at sporting and cultural events. In the summer, another marquee name will join the party: The Ned NoMad, an offshoot of the London hospitality venture that will occupy the same building as the former NoMad Hotel. Operated by Soho House parent company Membership Collective Group, The Ned will offer Manhattan’s first Cecconi’s restaurant and a 167-room hotel and a score of social spaces across a private rooftop lounge, terrace restaurant, and mezzanine bar. Casa Tua, a club with outposts in Miami, Aspen, and Paris, also plans to open on the Upper East Side in 2023.
London recently welcomed The House of KOKO, created as part of the ambitious renovation of the 19th-century theater KOKO in Camden. The sprawling property blends three historic buildings in a restoration by architects Archer Humphryes—the Grade II–listed theater, an adjacent 19th-century piano factory, and the Hope & Anchor pub—with interiors evocative of the site’s musical past, spearheaded by local firm Pirajean Lees and KOKO creative director Olly Bengough. The Wing, the female-focused club that closed after allegations of workplace racism, is also finagling a comeback strategy under the direction of new parent company IWG, a flexible British workspace firm.
In Los Angeles, the newly unveiled Pendry West Hollywood has an on-site private members club, The Britely, designed in a lustrous shade of bubblegum pink by Martin Brudnizki of Annabel’s London fame that features Regency feather lamps, glimmering chandeliers, a bowling alley, and Wolfgang Puck restaurant. After openings such as Hutton Brickyards in New York and Miami’s Hotel Greystone, Salt Hotels is preparing to christen The Aster, a wellness-focused club and hotel nearby on Vine Street.
Meanwhile, whispers of an ambitious project called The Moore, set to open in the Miami Design District, are ringing people’s ears in the Magic City. The upscale neighborhood’s owner and developer Craig Robins is reportedly involved in The Moore, which will reflect its cultural surroundings with a design-centric boutique hotel, fine art program, and executive workspaces when it opens later this year.
In 2022, it can’t be called a trend without movement into Web3. The entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of restaurant reservation service Resy, is attempting to crypto-ize the private club, offering access to the Flyfish Club by owning a membership token that can be verified through blockchain technology. Like NFTs, they can also be resold on marketplaces like OpenSea. The dining concept raised $14 million within the first week of funding and plans to open in a soon-to-be-announced location. (Another culinary club, Major Food Group’s ZZ’s Sushi Bar, has been a runaway success since it opened this past September.) Maxwell Tribeca, a forthcoming club in New York by former Mozio CEO David Litwak, will also require cryptocurrency for entry and is modeled after “txokos” eating clubs in San Sebastián, Spain.
There’s an undeniable correlation between the rise of DAOs, exclusive WhatsApp and Discord groups, and private members clubs. Post-pandemic, exclusive community-based spaces and platforms are all the rage.