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Members-Only Mania: Why Are More Private Clubs Popping Up in New York?

BusinessMembers-Only Mania: Why Are More Private Clubs Popping Up in New York?

The historical function of members’ clubs — to stratify the city by gender, race or class — persists today.

Aman New York, which opened in 2022, has offered a membership with an initiation fee of $200,000, plus annual dues. Exclusive access to Casa Cruz, which opened the same year, came at a price of $250,000 to $500,000. ZZ’s Club, from Major Food Group, has comparatively modest fees of $20,000 at initiation and $10,000 per year — the cost of getting into “the world’s first and only private location of Carbone,” the company’s restaurant beloved by celebrities.

On the other end of the spectrum, a membership at Verci — which has more of a D.I.Y., college campus feel — ranges from $200 to $300 a month, with no initiation fee. “We’ve been using this as our third space, our shared living room, a place for about 120 people that are all young and creative and artistic,” said Anant Vasudevan, a co-founder of Verci, which opened its first location in a former office space in Lower Manhattan last year.

The speedy growth has come with some sputtering. Soho House, one of the best-known clubs, announced late last year that it would stop admitting new members at its Los Angeles, New York and London spaces after complaints of overcrowding. The company, which has over 180,000 members and more than 40 locations worldwide, was founded in 1995 and helped pave the way for today’s clubs. In 2021, Soho House made an initial public offering during an aggressive expansion effort, but recently it has considered going private again.

Will the current flurry of hip, trendy clubs stand the test of time?

The affordability of commercial real estate played a role in Verci’s ability to secure a physical space in downtown Manhattan, according to Mr. Vasudevan. “Being able to have a little bit of leverage on that side has been really helpful for us, especially as we start this out,” he said, adding that his company “retrofitted” the space to “feel more like a cozy environment rather than like a corporate environment.”

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