Though my desire for coolness wanes every second I get closer to 30 years old, I’m wondering who exclusive, membership-based nightclubs are really for.
This year has already seen the opening of Lost Social Club, a West Sixth Street bar from Ethos Hospitality Group (the company behind TownHall) that was originally pitched as an invite-only nightclub experience.
As the grand opening approached, that language was walked back — leaving me with a frantic day of editing and correcting. Still, the 163-person bar’s experience hinges on eight VIP tables, pricey bottle service and a private room made famous by Guy Fieri and Megan Fox.
I can vividly picture 6-foot-10 NBA center Anthony Davis ducking under the low ceilings when the Los Angeles Lakers visited the bar in March.
“I met LeBron here,” my server, Faith, tells me during a sparsely attended media night where I enjoyed sliders and a cocktail alone (well, besides Faith) next to a thumping DJ. “He was really cool.”
Meanwhile, Zdenko Zovkic's Jade, a flashy three-floor Asian-fusion restaurant, also opened in the Flats East Bank in April. Enjoy one of the city's best waterfront views on the swanky rooftop patio — if you're a paying member, that is. Still under construction, the rooftop bar and social club is expected to open in late May, but memberships are being sold now and range from $2,050 to $2,550 annually. Members get perks such as preferred reservations, drink and food discounts, special events and the ability to bring two guests each. Still, the real kicker, Zovkic says, is the company you keep when at the bar. “It’s a social collaborative network of the business community and influences the tastemakers in the region,” he says. “The weekends are going to be an all-day operation with DJs. Turn up a little bit and enjoy the views.”
Finally, later this year, the VIP speakeasy E4SE opens at Indie East Fourth, which launched in January in the former Greenhouse Tavern spot and will soon also have a rooftop bar. The invite-only membership gets you first dibs at reservations to the whiskey-and tequila-forward space, which seats 20, as well as special perks and cocktails.
“I’m going to invite 25 people who are close to me and then, after a while, I’m going to let them invite 25 people who are close to them,” says co-owner Gabriel Zeller, who also owns Char Whiskey and Grill in Rocky River and Avo Modern Mexican in Ohio City with his wife, Julie Mesenberg. “But it will be open to the general public eventually.”
Here’s my thing: Didn’t we just spend two years alone? Roped off? Isolated? The idea of exclusivity, to me, is more of a deterrent than a draw.
I’d rather be on the dance floor than in a booth. I’m craving more spontaneous moments and meetups, not less social contact.
I understand the branding taps into our culture’s obsessive cult of personality, but the exclusivity that currently exists already feels like a wart on the downtown experience.
Street parking bans most weekend nights in the Flats create a $25 barrier to entry to anyone looking to park below the Main Avenue hill. If you’re willing to wait for a street spot, you should be able to get one without being towed.
Additionally, many downtown nightclubs enforce dress codes, which seems harmless but often unfairly targets people of color.
In 2010, the NAACP even asked Mayor Frank Jackson to address racism in the Warehouse District. That letter might seem like ancient history, but a decade later, for many, that unwelcome feeling remains.
Should exclusive clubs exist? Sure. Supper clubs and social clubs go back decades as do private member clubs, such as the London-based Soho House.
But if you’re looking for me this summer, I’ll be sipping cheap beer at the communal table ignoring this trend.