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Soho Beach House Makes You Want to Belong

MIAMI ( TheStreet) -- Soho Beach House is farther north than the cluster of Raleigh and Delano hotels that have defined the epicenter of Miami Beach in recent years. But the epicenter may be moving.

Soho Beach House, in a former Sovereign Hotel that includes a 16-story waterfront tower, opened in October on schedule and mostly hiccup free, in typical Soho House fashion under founder Nick Jones, who was aided by a 2008 investment of $168 million by Richard Caring. Caring owns an 80% majority in the group that's financed the club's recent expansion in Los Angeles as well as Miami.

Soho Beach House's main pool has loungers running its length and staff circling to serve guests chilled buckets of iced apple slices and other fresh fruit.

Anything British seems a million miles away, though, from the endless winter sunshine and deco palaces lining the Miami Beach waterfront of Collins Avenue. Soho House sits like a well-guarded secret by the massive residential tower of the Fountainbleu, although the secret is given away by a circular driveway crammed with Maseratis and Bentleys.

As the car door swings open there's no "Welcome to Soho House" or "Are you checking in?" Instead, guests are greeted with an efficient "Member or guest?" that alludes to the difficulties of managing a club that's only partially open to the public. Soho Beach House is two-thirds membership club and one-third open-to-the-public hotel, Cowshed Spa and Cecconi's Restaurant, but all are accessed through a single doorway. The single elevator mixes spirited regulars en route to the membership lounge and hotel guests in search of their bed.

Checking in feels a world away from the sterile, sometimes conveyor-belt experience of Miami's larger luxury hotels. Here a single face swipes your card, learns your name and assists with everything from faxing to scoring tickets to a Heat game, even if it's less than a few hours before tipoff.

The central lobby, designed by Martin Brudnizki, is a throwback to the old guard of Miami Beach with its mix of tropical upholstered chairs and sofas, wood-paneled walls and cylindrical crystal chandelier. Bright and airy corridors are a wink toward Kit Kemps, the U.K. hotelier behind London's Soho Hotel, with seagrass carpeting and high-gloss oil paint on chunky doors.

The guests and members, in their Tomas Meier and Lanvin fashions, seem to be the creme of Miami whether it's breakfast time with Cuban coffees in the lobby or 3 a.m. at the club bar.

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