LOS ANGELES ( TheStreet) -- The location of the new Soho House West Hollywood, atop a high-rise building on the edge of Beverly Hills, couldn't be better.

The L.A. outpost of Soho House opens today. The social club debuts as the city struggles to emerge from a recession that's still deepening with layoffs, empty storefronts and a weak real estate market. Its business model seems to lean on studio executives and the business elite, who would have snapped up memberships to woo clients in the past, but now have to justify an almost $200-per month membership to budget-minded companies that may quiver at such extravagance.

Soho House
An interior rendering of the new Soho House in West Hollywood.

Soho House's first site opened more than 15 years ago in London. Owner Nick Jones built his hospitality background at the city's Grosvenor House and Cafe Boheme.

Soho House's success was immediate and in the following years, outposts debuted in London's Shoreditch, Somerset and Chiswick neighborhoods, and in New York, where the site also offers a boutique hotel. In early 2008, London media-mogul Richard Caring bought an 80% stake in Soho House for 105 million pounds (about $160 million), expanding it globally.

To design Soho House West Hollywood, the group hired former 20th Century Fox set designer Waldo Fernandez. The multi-story restaurant and lounge features herringbone hardwood floors and a sweeping staircase that links an elongated bar and restaurant with a rooftop garden under a retractable roof.

Plans for the rooftop swimming pool were scrapped amid protests by neighbors. A sound barrier will seek to control noise. Each floor features floor-to-ceiling glass with views that stretch from Catalina Island to Santa Monica.

To get into the glamour penthouse, Jones oversees a 20-person membership committee that looks to lure Hollywood luminaries willing to pay its hefty fees.

Customers must pay $1,800 a year to join one Soho House and $2,400 to have access to all of its sites. The company offers half-price memberships to clients younger than 27, but the perk ends when they turn 30.

A select group of VIPs were mailed invitations that offered expedited memberships. For everyone else, the country club-style application requires career information, written referrals from two members and a credit card number.

The membership fee and approval process are sure to generate mixed reactions in a city that's used to freebies. Jones recently said in W magazine that only members will be allowed in. Members are, however, allowed to bring in up to three guests without prior approval, and even more with advance notice.

Soho House has operated pop-up parties in L.A. since 2005 and opened Cecconi's last year in the former Morton's space, so its managers have a bit of experience in the L.A. market.

Following the opening of Soho House West Hollywood, the company will set its eyes on Miami Beach, where it will open its next location in the former Sovereign Hotel in late 2010 or early 2011. The site will have a 120-room hotel, rooftop bar and multi-level pool.

The company will also open Soho House Berlin, occupying six floors in an 82-year-old building that formerly served as a department store. The plans include a hotel, private theater, dramatic rooftop pool and a Cecconi's restaurant.

-- Reported by Michael Martin of JetSetReport.com in Los Angeles.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.