Exclusive clubs let non-members book hotel rooms

Soho House was the home of Matthew Boulton and meeting place of the Lunar Society. FILE

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Soho House was the home of Matthew Boulton and meeting place of the Lunar Society. FILE

Non-membership has its benefits.

A hotel stay can be the key to access to some of the world’s most exclusive members-only clubs.

While a regular member of Soho House must undergo a rigorous application process and pay pricey annual fees, the average traveler can get in the door simply by booking one of the club’s many global hotel rooms.

Soho House & Co, the umbrella group for the brand’s outposts around North America and Europe, offers hotel rooms in several cities. If you book a bed at London’s Dean Street Townhouse, Shoreditch House or High Road House, for instance, you will have access to all member facilities even without membership. At Shoreditch House, that includes a rooftop swimming pool and gym.

Downtown Los Angeles is home to the Los Angeles Athletic Club, which has rooms and club suites available for booking starting in the low $200 range.

San Francisco’s The Battery Club has 15 hotel rooms, which include a 6,200 square foot rooftop penthouse with an outside terrace. Rooms for non-members at The Battery range from $600 to $1,300 per night, with a discount for members. The Penthouse begins at $10,000 per night.

Many of the clubs are catering to business travelers who are looking for alternatives to big-box hotel brands.

“I often stay in soulless hotels that are all the same as each other,” says Matt Cooksley, managing director of Make Positive Ltd. in London.

He stays at the Brody House in Budapest when he travels for business even though he’s not a member. He likes to entertain clients in the club’s public spaces.

“Brody House is like staying in a country house with friends, and I love going back,” he says.

London’s The Hospital Club in Covent Garden added 15 bedrooms to its property in January 2015.

“The ever-changing global economic climate has seen a growth in the mobile workforce,” says Sue Walter, CEO of The Hospital Club. “Changes in lifestyle management have also resulted in more flexible working arrangements.”

Private membership clubs have had a resurgence in popularity in the last 10 years, Walter says. And those members have asked for overnight accommodations to reflect their flexible lifestyles and changing needs.

“The term ‘home away from home’ is being used more and more when referring to private members clubs,” she says. “The addition of bedrooms means that a club can provide a space where its community can seamlessly transition from work to play to rest.”

The club’s bedrooms, which range in size, start at $285 for non-member bookings. Visitors to the hotel have access to all facilities and amenities, including events if there is available space.

“It’s never been problematic allowing hotel guests who are non-members into the members’ area,” Walter says. “We treat them as members for the duration of their stay.”

The Fox Club, located in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, is another club that offers rooms for booking. In a city in which hotel rooms are hard to come by, The Fox Club provides an under-the-radar alternative.

“Even last-minute members can nine times out of 10 book in with us,” says Shirley Tomkins, manager at The Fox Club.

The Battery in San Francisco added rooms to ensure that guests had somewhere to go after bars closed elsewhere.

“The Battery offers hotel rooms so that the member – or visiting guest – experience wouldn't have to end at last call,” says Stephen Flowers, membership director for The Battery. “Many of our members do not live in San Francisco. Therefore, we can provide them with a home away from home.”

The Battery specifically caters to business travelers by including a desk and several chairs in every room. The club also rents out private meeting spaces for up to 12 people as well as conference equipment, information technology and audio/visual assistance, Bluetooth connectivity and free Wi-Fi. There are also workspaces available in the club’s communal Library.

For business travelers, these amenities are useful, as is the possibility to network inside a club’s usually impenetrable walls. Alexander van Terheyden, an entrepreneur based in London, selected Soho House Berlin for a recent business trip.

“I wouldn't always pick a club-like-hotel but it just seemed like the more interesting choice,” says van Terheyden. “I figured there would be adequate space to have a meeting or prepare my work on my laptop in a relaxing environment prior to meeting with my clients elsewhere in Berlin.”

To book a room at a participating Soho House, non-members have to email to make a reservation. The rates can vary, but it’s a way for travelers to find themselves in an exclusive hot spot while in a foreign city.

Tanya Spaulding, principal at design firm Shea, Inc., prefers staying at the Soho House in cities such as Chicago even though she’s not a member.

“They’ve created multiple common areas within the hotel dedicated to business or pleasure, or both, that layer in design, amenities and lighting in a way that makes guests instantly comfortable,” she says. “When you stay here, you have access to some of the most popular and coveted spaces in town that are not open to the masses.”

The Brody House in Budapest is a popular spot, offering 11 individually designed bedrooms for short term stays.

The club also offers The Brody Apartments, with 14 serviced apartments, and The Writer’s Villa, which features six bedrooms and a pool. All guests are granted courtesy membership benefits for their stay. But its members still get some added perks.

“Members receive preferential rates and our intention is to offer them and their guests a friendly home-from-home,” spokeswoman Tara Siddons-Deighton says. “This element may provide our members with a polite way of offloading house guests with ‘Why don’t you stay at my club?.’”

The Clubhouse in Buenos Aires caters to a more artistic crowd. The club has five rooms available for booking and welcomes non-members inside, where there is ample opportunity to network and meet fellow international travelers.

“Anyone can book and stay at The Clubhouse and automatically gain access to all the club amenities and events during their stay,” says Carolina Ramirez Herrera, director of marketing and communications for Oasis Collections, which owns The Clubhouse.

Events include chef’s table dinners, wine tastings, brunch and pool parties.

“Given our existing members travel often, it creates a great network of international and like-minded individuals,” she says.