TRAVEL

Robb Report (USA) - - DEPARTMENTS -

Pri­vate P clubs, bro-tels, and skin care from Aman.

first came to New York in 2003, it was both

WHEN SOHO HOUSE revered and reviled in equal mea­sure—the for­mer for its highly ex­clu­sive vibe, set by an elite co­terie of found­ing mem­bers (in­clud­ing David Bowie), and the lat­ter for the sim­ple fact that al­most no­body else could man­age to get in. There were reg­u­lar breakdowns in the lobby—usu­ally a so­cialite turned away by the tight se­cu­rity at the desk—and on oc­ca­sion, a breach of mem­ber­ship code led to a very em­bar­rass­ing ejec­tion from the club.

But 15 years later, the story isn’t quite the same. New York’s for­mer fortress of fri­vol­ity has since been joined by two more Soho House out­posts and count­less other clubs around the city—and get­ting in, well, it’s re­ally not that hard any­more. Even if you’re not a mem­ber, you could prob­a­bly find some­one will­ing to loan you their card just walk­ing down the street. In fact, you might be more in­ter­est­ing if you weren’t a mem­ber of any­thing at all.

The mem­bers-only trend has been go­ing strong for cen­turies—since the 1700s, ac­tu­ally, when ev­ery well-to-do gen­tle­man in London de­manded a refuge from the teem­ing, gin-soaked masses—and many, like the Athenaeum and Boo­dle’s, still ex­ist today. But lately, the once-well-guarded world of mem­bers clubs has en­coun­tered an un­ex­pected side ef­fect of its own pop­u­lar­ity: Sim­ply put, there’s too damn many of them. Old clubs are rein­vent­ing them­selves, new clubs are pop­ping up like bad pen­nies, and ho­tels are even tak­ing a cut of the loot by turn­ing their own bars and lounges into half-baked mem­bers spa­ces. New York, for ex­am­ple, has long been lousy with op­u­lent hide­outs for the up­per crust, but now there’s a club for ev­ery kind of mem­ber you can imag­ine: the anti-fi­nance-bro fi­nance bro (the Par­lor), the well­ness guru on a spir­i­tual quest (Habitas NYC), even the net­work­ing woman with a pen­chant for pink (the Wing).

And pri­vate clubs are march­ing across the globe. In Washington, D.C., the new Ea­ton Work­shop makes the du­bi­ous (and slightly ter­ri­fy­ing) claim of com­bin­ing the at­mos­phere of a news­room, Warhol’s Fac­tory, and Burn­ing Man in one venue. London’s once-stuffy Arts Club is rein­vent­ing it­self with a hop across the pond for an edgy LA out­post. And as of last month, Soho House has reached a to­tal of 24 clubs world­wide.

Where will it end? Per­haps the big­gest sign that the trend might be go­ing toes up is the news in Septem­ber that New York’s Play­boy Club had re­opened its doors af­ter 30 years. For a mere $5,000 a year, you can step back into the early ’80s and thumb your nose at the 21st cen­tury. We’re start­ing to think we know ex­actly what Groucho Marx was talk­ing about. Tony Perrottet

Th­ese days, there’s a pri­vate club for ev­ery­one—but find­ing a true ex­clu­sive mem­ber­ship (like London’s Annabel’s, above) can be the real chal­lenge.

Soho House’s third New York out­post, Dumbo House, opened in Brook­lyn this year.

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