Soho House: Why I cancelled my Membership
After much deliberation, I decided Soho House was no longer a place I wanted to spend time. I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. In my letter below to Nick Jones, the founder and CEO of Soho House, I explain my decision to resign from the club.
I’m afraid it’s time to cancel my membership. Upon some reflection over the past year I’ve come to realise that Soho House is simply not the same place it was when I first started going with friends circa 1997.
I fear the club has become a somewhat premium version of WeWork.
Walking into Soho House today one is immediately confronted with a plethora of solo, individual members working on laptops/tablets and texting on their phones.
Engaging with other members seems less important than electronic media. Most interactions appear to be business meetings.
Now, with 24 mostly cloned clubs themed and twinned (usually) with one of your other brands, Ceconni’s restaurants, the whole enterprise seems deeply uncool.
Ceconni’s in Mumbai? Like Nobu, you’ve become a sort of international McDonalds for rich people. Yawn.
Nothing wrong with that — just not my thing and not interested in a generic experience regardless of country or culture.
Annoyingly, Soho House now seems to be an endless hustle. Most of the organised member “lectures” on offer are little more than one member trying to sell their services or “brand” to another member under the guise of something educational or informative.
“How to buy a diamond” — from whom? From an expert who happens to be selling diamonds!
Wouldn’t it be great if there were talks or lectures on genuinely interesting topics where the sole purpose wasn’t to monetise a brand or an experience? Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Now Soho House sends us reminders that we can purchase the same furniture and bedding featured in the houses for our own homes. Hustle, hustle!
Food & beverage pricing which used to be reasonable since members subsidise your business with monthly dues has now been raised to the point that it’s on par with dining at many high-end non-members clubs.
This is not in keeping with a true members’ club ethos. But of course, Soho House is a private business, not a true members club in the strictest sense.
And an attempt to enjoy the L.A. club last year was met with disappointment after being told it was closed for a “private event.” Who could have known after taking an expensive taxi there from the airport?
What sort of “members club” closes the doors to their own members just to cream money off a private event?
Adding insult, you restricted the Malibu club by creating a two-tier system. So called “all House” members were no longer equals. Malibu members had worldwide access but the ‘all house’ members could not visit Malibu without being made to grovel for an occasional one-off.
Your one-way Malibu restrictions are also deeply uncool — again, not in keeping with the original spirit of Soho House (but I think in your heart you know that).
By the way, as someone who knows Malibu very well, any rational person somehow in awe of Malibu and its citizens needs a reality check. I’m sorry I do not agree with you that Malibu is “special.”
OK, I’m a big boy and I understand that times change and now your goal is to get bigger and open loads of worldwide clubs, restaurants, sell furniture, cosmetics and God knows what else whilst hoping to sustain the faux allure of exclusivity.
At the end of the day, Nick, I’m sure you’ll continue to make a lot of money, but the magic of original Soho House is now long gone.
Thanks for the memories and
Since I originally wrote to Nick Jones, Soho House seems to have come up with another flawed idea sure to create a sense of social competition amongst its members: the recently launched 27Under27 list.
The list, which features “….our most inspiring, entrepreneurial and creative young soho house members around the world…”
As if millennials don’t already suffer enough from social status anxiety the club decided to create a list bigging-up and marking out some members as more special than others.
Whilst the list was probably just an idea to fill up content in the newsletter, the 27Under27 list, with its breathless emphasis on singling out certain members, is naff and not in keeping with the original spirit of Soho House. Original members would have been horrified to find themselves on an internal PR-style hype list.