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.
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.