Soho House shuts to new members following complaints its clubs are too busy

Nick Jones
Soho House founder Nick Jones announced the freeze to new joiners in London, New York and Los Angeles - Jamie Lorriman

Soho House is shutting its doors to new members in London, New York and Los Angeles, following complaints that its city centre clubs have become overcrowded.

In a letter to members, Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House who is married to the BBC presenter Kirsty Young, said he was working on “making sure our houses don’t feel too busy”.

He said: “For that reason, next year we’re closing the doors to new members across our houses in London, New York and Los Angeles, and will only be accepting members in locations where we have capacity.”

It follows criticism that Soho House has been accepting too many new members, prompting complaints that this has led to its clubs losing their exclusivity.

Soho House, which was launched in 1995 from a single townhouse on Greek Street in Soho, London, has set itself apart from traditional private members’ clubs in that it has focused on attracting a more creative clientele rather than bankers and financial advisers.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had their first date at Soho House’s Dean Street Townhouse restaurant in London, with the Duchess celebrating her hen do at the group’s Soho Farmhouse retreat in the Cotswolds.

Dean Street Townhouse London
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had their first date at Soho House’s Dean Street Townhouse restaurant - Soho House

Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie have been pictured at its clubs, and one of its New York houses featured in an episode of Sex and the City that included a cameo from the former Spice Girl Geri Horner.

However, the private members’ club has recently been battling criticism that its properties have lost some of their exclusive sheen, after letting in too many new members.

Between October this year and last year, it took on 21pc more members. By Oct 1, it had 184,542 Soho House members, a dramatic jump from almost 118,000 two years earlier.

Videos on TikTok have attracted thousands of likes for posts in which users criticise its clubs as too busy and overrated. A popular Instagram account, Soho House Memes, has racked up more than 100,000 followers with posts such as one captioned: “Love it when £200 leaves my bank account then I’m told to wait four hours for a table at 3pm”.

Soho House has recently softened its approach to keeping bankers out of its clubs.

Speaking to the Telegraph last year, Mr Jones said: “The world is constantly changing. It doesn’t matter what job you do, as long as you’re interesting – and nice.”

The pause in memberships is expected to last at least until the end of next year.

Soho House has nine clubs in London, as well as three in New York and four in Los Angeles. In London, an annual membership costs £2,750, which includes access to all of its clubs around the world.

It had 42 locations as of Oct 1 across cities including Rome, Hong Kong and Mexico City. These clubs often include cafés, restaurants and communal areas, as well as cinemas and swimming pools.

The company also has other membership options including “Soho Friends” which does not give access to its clubs but allows members to book at its restaurants and get discounts on Soho House-owned products.

Mr Jones, who stepped down from the day-to-day running of Soho House late last year after recovering from cancer, said he had been “spending a lot more time in our houses” after having the “space to focus more attention on the clubs themselves”.

Soho House last stopped accepting members during Covid as part of efforts to make sure people could socially distance once the clubs were allowed to reopen.

It has also previously culled some of its members in an attempt to recapture its founding spirit and attract cooler members. In 2010, it announced it was purging as many as 1,000 members from its New York property, with Mr Jones saying at the time that he was “trying to get the club back to its creative roots”.

He said: “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.”

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