Soho House, the members only club that helped gentrify the Meatpacking District, is trying to ungentrify itself. Management is giving "corporate" types who diluted the hangout's vaguely creative roots the boot! They're also opening a Berlin outpost (whaaaaa?) in a former Hitler Youth headquarters (double whaaaaa).
Remember Soho House's halcyon days? The anarchist screeds typed poolside? The oft-contentious literary salon debates raging throughout the Cowshed spa? Neither do I, although the joint's Sex and the City cameo (always a sign of underground, off-the-radar edge) does stick out.
Still, Soho House did initially target New York's moneyed media elite--the blog bigwigs, fashion editrixes and indie film types who would rather starve (well, the fashion ladies already had) than wear a starched shirt and tie to the office. But as with the rest of the city, the place just couldn't escape the clutches of the staid Wall Street crowd.
The backlash started last summer when founder Nick Jones requested members not wear business suits inside. And now, the club has let 500 memberships expire rather than be renewed, and might cull another 500 (Soho House currently has 4,500 members who pay up to $2,400 in annual dues).
"We are trying to get the club back to its creative roots. When I went there, it didn't have the right feel anymore. It has always been a creative, friendly place with a relaxed feel. If there are too many corporate types around then that atmosphere doesn't occur."
On the creative note, Soho House is colonizing (former? still?) bohemian hotbed Berlin with a six-floor pad in the city's Mitte district. Mitte used to be a squatters' paradise and is now chockablock with blue chip galleries and cute, airy restaurants. It's kind of what the Meatpacking District looked like 10 years ago, after Pastis but before the Gansevoort, when you could still find a few token tranny hookers teetering along the blood-stained cobblestone.
It will be interesting to see how the swank Soho House will go over in a city whose nightlife scene, for the moment, still favors industrial megaclubs that don't get going until 6am and feature basement sex labs.
I guess the question is: will Soho House's plans make New York look a bit more like Berlin, or speed up Berlin's transformation into New York?