Why private clubs are popping up all over LA

In a city where exclusivity is a badge of honor, private clubs are proliferating

Oct.October 30, 2019 10:00 AM
The Wing

Tucked away on Melrose Place between the trendy Alfred Coffee and the Mediterranean bistro Fig & Olive, there’s a nondescript door. Behind it is AllBright, the latest exclusive social club to pop up in the city.

On a visit in mid-September, the women’s members club was a week away from its official opening date, with a flurry of crew members arranging the final touches on the three-story space. Six salon chairs and a neon sign that reads “Sisterhood Works” were already in place. There was talk of socialite and “The Hills” star Whitney Port, who would be coming by the club later for an event. Upstairs, an array of Jimmy Choo handbags and shoes sat on display for an all-day event where members could shop.

London-based AllBright is one of many private social clubs that are setting up shop in L.A., a city in which exclusivity is a frequently wielded power tool. Though clubs are not a new phenomenon — the revered California Club opened in the late 1880s to men only — there has been a resurgence as of late. Industry professionals attribute part of the popularity to the gig economy, which has seen an increasing number of freelancers and entrepreneurs yearning for a shared workspace and community.

In the past year, there have been at least five social clubs and working spaces that have opened shop in L.A, not including traditional co-working firms such as WeWork. Some, including The Wing and AllBright, are geared toward women, while others, such as the San Vicente Bungalows, cater to an A-list crowd mostly comprised of Tinseltown elites.

Even with the increasing number of clubs popping up, the demand for them increases. Jeff Klein, who owns the famed Sunset Tower Hotel, said there are more than 8,000 applications for his San Vicente Bungalows. And Soho House, one of the more well-established private member clubs with two locations in the city, recently added a third in the Arts District.

The club scene has even lured individuals from other industries to get involved. Case in point: Top real estate broker Kurt Rappaport is currently working on opening his own members club, alongside other investors, on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

To stay competitive, AllBright co-founder Anna Jones said it’s imperative to “have a distinct position, voice and community that’s galvanized around something.” To her and co-founder Debbie Wosskow, that meant focusing the design, programming and amenities of their new L.A. outpost around women and what they need. On a recent Thursday evening, that programming included a private screening of the new film “Hustlers,” which critics have praised for its message of female empowerment.

“We felt, on the back of the Time’s Up movement, that L.A. really needed a place for its amazing women to shine,” Wosskow said. AllBright, founded in 2017, has two locations in London and a current valuation of $123 million after earning a total of $25 million in fundraising.

Here’s a rundown of some of the private social clubs and co-working spots that have recently opened in L.A.:

The Wing

The Wing, co-founded by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan in 2016, opened an 11,000-square-foot space at 8550 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in April, its seventh location at the time. The members-only space, which is exclusive to women, has a Little Wing childcare center, a lending library with a “Wing Women Reading List” curated by Skylight Books and a café featuring foods from some of L.A.’s top female chefs. Founding members include actresses Jessica Alba, Gabourey Sidibe, Sarah Silverman and writer Roxane Gay, among others. The Wing closes its doors at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends, making it more akin to a co-working space like WeWork than a bustling social club. Rates for membership to a single location at the club start around $215 a month, or $2,350 annually. Access to the club’s eight locations nationwide will cost members $2,700 annually.

AllBright

AllBright

Hailing from London, AllBright opened its first U.S. location in West Hollywood’s Melrose Place in late September. The 9,000-square-foot space, designed by Brigette Romanek, incorporates dining spaces, a rooftop deck and beauty services. Programs include movie screenings and a monthly Pitch Day, where female entrepreneurs can pitch investors. AllBright offers “one global membership,” which means that members at the West Hollywood location have access to all the other locations at no extra cost. Although AllBright allows men on its premises, only women can be members. An annual membership costs $2,050, with a $300 initiation fee. For those under 30, the rate drops to $1,050 annually. Co-founders Wasskow and Jones said they plan on expanding to Washington, D.C., New York City and Hong Kong.

Spring Place

For the fashion and art community, there’s Spring Place in Beverly Hills. The New York-based club opened its first location in L.A. last October at a 40,000-square-foot space on Wilshire Boulevard. Part co-working, part social club, Spring Place has private offices, meeting rooms, a bar, a restaurant and a 6,500-square-foot rooftop lounge. Annual “community” memberships, which do not include a private desk, cost $3,000. A dedicated desk will set members back $1,250 per month. Spring Place was founded by Est4te Four’s Alessandro Cajrati Crivelli, Francesco Costa and Imad Izemrane.

Spring Place

Soho Warehouse

Soho Warehouse is Soho House’s third location in L.A. This outpost is also the first to offer bedrooms — 48 to be exact — which can be rented out as hotel rooms for $195 per night. Located at a building constructed in 1916 on Santa Fe Avenue in the Arts District, Soho Warehouse also features a rooftop pool, restaurant, bar, lounging space and Soho Active gym. In addition to a $550 registration fee, standard membership for the location starts at $2,160 per year, or $3,300 for access to all its clubs worldwide. The London-based chain first opened on the Sunset Strip in 2010, followed by its Little Beach House Malibu six years later. 

San Vicente Bungalows

San Vicente Bungalows

In February, Jeff Klein opened his first members club, the San Vicente Bungalows, in a former motel and gay bathhouse where residents used to cooked meth. The club that occupies the West Hollywood space today, lush with mature orange trees and pastel pink throughout, could not be further from those debauched days. Known for its star power, the 1,200-member club prohibits the use of cell phones on the property out of respect for the privacy of its members. Over the summer, it was leaked that Steven Spielberg and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos had a meeting there. Klein promptly undertook a hunt for the leaker, according to a report from GQ. The club, which includes a movie theater with piano, a plunge pool, nine suites and a restaurant, charges $1,800 annually for members under 35 and $4,200 for everyone else, in addition to a registration fee.


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