This story first appeared in the April 10 issue of Hollywood Insight.
When Soho House made its Hollywood debut five years ago this month, there were some who doubted its longevity. Yes, the club’s previous incarnations, in London and New York, had been very successful. And everyone loved the sweeping view from the balcony. But would Hollywood really line up for membership in an office-tower club started by a few anonymous Brits?
The answer, of course, has been a resounding yes. In a remarkably short time, Soho House has become the most important club in Hollywood — a high-wattage magnet for A-listers and dealmakers. (It easily tops the field in Hollywood Insight annual Power Lunch survey of hundreds of top players.) L.A. may have no center, but the industry now does.
The club was the brainchild of a quiet 51-year-old Brit named Nick Jones, who opened the London original in 1995 as a haven for the creative types who had just started to colonize the city’s Soho district. The club quickly emerged as an arty, egalitarian alternative to stuffy stalwarts like White’s and Annabel’s. The first stateside branch launched in Manhattan’s then-edgy Meatpacking District eight years later, but by the time Jones headed to Hollywood, it had gained a bad reputation for letting in too many Wall Street suits (which they would later clean up and out “by purging 400 people,” says former membership director Tim Geary).
With their mysterious admissions policies — in which a nebulous ideal of “creativity” is valued above net worth and job titles — and studied resistance to ostentation, Jones and his membership committee have seemed to delight in upending Hollywood’s carefully cultivated status signifiers. Several execs were banned because they were thought to be abusive to their assistants. It’s not uncommon to see a fairly anonymous screenwriter get whisked to his table while an agency heavyweight cools his heels at the bar.
To mark its L.A. outpost’s anniversary, the key figures behind the notoriously tight-lipped club — which is in the midst of a global expansion to such far-flung locales as Barcelona and Istanbul, financed by billionaire owner Ron Burkle — agreed to talk exclusively to Hollywood Insight for the first time about the well-choreographed campaign they launched to make Soho House a full-fledged Hollywood institution and arbiter of entertainment clout. Here’s the story of the most star-packed club in the world.