The influence of social London clubs like 5 Hertford Street, Groucho Club and Soho House is expanding around the globe, with new locations in New York in the works. In Pittsburgh, Pa., The Roaming Social Club has been formed to bring attention to the region’s private ethnic and social clubs, with tours planned throughout the year.
5 Hertford Street, one of London’s most fabled—and secretive—members clubs is serving as a template for similar clubs around the world, Bloomberg reported.
The club was opened in 2012 by Robin Birley, son of Mark Birley, founder of five-decade-old Annabel’s nightclub. Today, the waiting list includes more than 3,000 applicants eager to pay the roughly $2,700 annual fee, not that the club would ever boast about such things. Birley’s 21st century take on the British institution is distinct from traditional outlets such as White’s, which doesn’t admit women as members, Bloomberg reported.
Its modern spin on the members-club concept includes Loulou’s, a nightclub in the basement, which has a dance floor with psychedelic patterns beneath a starlit ceiling and a stuffed giraffe’s head that marks the entrance to your own private Oz. And the club’s commitment to privacy and exclusivity makes the dance floor even more freewheeling—a who’s who of the well-connected, Bloomberg reported.
Birley is now expanding to New York and is in talks to take over a space near Union Square in Manhattan. The London club is popular with Americans—several hundred of its members hail from the U.S. and use the location as a place to set up homes-away-from-home in the quiet alcoves that dot the property. Charlie Methven, a spokesman for Birley, said Americans have urged him to cross the Atlantic, Bloomberg reported.
Groucho Club, a London venue established in 1985 that’s favored by art and media insiders, is also in discussions with a landlord for a New York location, according to managing director Matthew Hobbs. Soho House, a competitor that already runs two popular outposts in New York, has additional locations planned for Brooklyn and Hong Kong, Bloomberg reported.
The flurry of developments reflects the continued demand for a members club that combines the age-old desire for exclusivity with a more relaxed atmosphere tailored to contemporary lifestyles—a club very different from the stodgy spots lining London’s Pall Mall or clustered near New York’s Central Park South, Bloomberg reported.
C&RB will focus on the “new breed” of private clubs taking hold in the July 2018 issue.
“A new generation is converting to the idea of clubs,” said Methven.
The Battery, which occupies a former warehouse in San Francisco, has grown to more than 4,600 members since it opened in 2013. They roam Ken Fulk-designed interiors and attend free events featuring performers such as Snoop Dogg and the Chainsmokers, Bloomberg reported.
The clubs are seeing some competition from high-end, hybrid co-working spaces. Mortimer House, from hotelier Guy Ivesha, opened in December in a six-story art deco building in central London. It features four floors of workspaces and a living room, den, loft, and gallery for members. A gym and pilates studio occupy the basement, Bloomberg reported.
The Roaming Social Club, a group of individuals who will tour many of Pittsburgh’s private ethnic and social clubs throughout 2018, was recently formed to help these facilities be remembered, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
The first stop was January 20 at the Kollar Club, formerly known as the John Kollar Slovak Literary and Library Society on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Frequently hard to access, the clubs were a mainstay of the city’s diverse ethnic communities, some dating back to the mid-19th century, the Tribune-Review reported.
The venture is the brainchild of Deutschtown Music Festival co-founder Ben Soltesz and Stephanie Brea, who helped organize Pittsburgh’s Bayardstown Social Club.
Other upcoming venues include:
• The Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 23 in Lawrenceville in February.
• The German heritage-based Teutonia Mannerchor on the North Side in March.
• The Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center in West Homestead in April.
“I’ve been going to and buying memberships to some of these places for years, and have helped stage some events for them,” said Soltesz. “Many of the clubs are just getting by, and their membership is not getting any younger.”
These clubs are “the crown jewels of the city,” Soltesz said, and finds that their current members are receptive and appreciative to the younger crowds. Most of the 12 stops this year will feature live entertainment and include a brief history lesson from existing members, the Tribune-Review reported.
The Roaming Social Club operates on a membership basis with either six events for $60 or 12 events for $120. Day of admission will also be available to each event for an additional fee, the Tribune-Review reported.
“The benefits of being member are that you are joining our big, happy, roaming family,” said Brea. “We are hoping to widen and expand the sense of community that exists at all these great clubs.”
The club plan to give a prize at the end of the year to the person or people who end up with the most memberships at the individual clubs. “I really want people to come,” Soltesz said. “There is no use having events like this if no one comes. We are trying to offer a nice mix of places from all over the city. We hope to visit some outdoor venues in the summer. There is so much history here in these places and if people don’t go there then they won’t be there any longer once they are gone, they are gone.”
Other ethnic clubs throughout Western Pennsylvania include:
Ukrainian Club, Derry, Pa.
Yukon Croatian Club, Yukon, Pa.
Marconi Club, Leechburg, Pa.
Bari Society, Vandergrift, Pa.
Hungarian Club, Gilpin, Pa.
Avonmore (Pa.) Polish Club
Avonmore (Pa.) Italian Club
East Vandergrift (Pa.) Polish Club
St. Joseph’s Polish Club, Westmoreland City, Pa.
Hilltop Social Club, Greensburg, Pa.