Groucho might not have joined, but 1,600 others have


By Melanie Wallis

With the sudden growth of the Meatpacking District as a hotel area, Soho House continues to be one of the most exclusive, attracting media moguls, fashion models, actors, directors and their lucky guests.

Situated in the heart of the cobblestoned district, the single-door entrance to this hotel on 13th St. is hardly noticeable, with discreet lettering on the glass frontage. In the summertime, however, the hotel can be spotted on approach by looking up, where you will see the umbrellas of the rooftop pool deck.

The 24-guestroom boutique hotel, which opened in June 2003, is a hotel with a difference. Not one room is the same, differing in size and trendy décor.

All, however, have plasma televisions, a DVD player, draws filled with games, Nars makeup, massage oil and fridges full of champagne and Ben & Jerry’s.

“Guests can come here with nothing, not even an overnight bag. The rooms have everything,” says Jo Addy, Soho House public relations spokesperson.

Going against convention, the stand-alone baths are located at the end of the bed and the walk-in shower doubles as a steam room.

It’s not only the guest rooms that make this relatively small hotel stand out from the rest. The amount of services and facilities offered in the five-floor membership club are surprising considering its limitation of size.

In addition to the expected services such as bar, restaurant, spa and gym, there are two rentable stylish function rooms, the rooftop terrace with pool, a gameroom with a pool table, pinball and table football; and a cinema for 35-mm films, which seats 43 people and often shows prerelease box office films.

Anyone can take advantage of the luxurious offerings by paying to stay at the hotel, which automatically gives you free run of the hotel’s facilities. Rooms range from $350 to $985 per night.

Only a limited few, however, can become a member, adding to the hotel’s exclusivity. Those who have not yet got their membership may have a long wait and some may never get the chance.

The membership list is on hold with only 1,600 members and about another 1,000 on waitlist. A 27-person committee representing film, fashion, theater, publishing writing and design, get together every three months to review the applications. At this stage only a handful of people will be lucky enough to be offered to purchase a $900-a-year membership.

The decision is based solely on the applicant’s occupation — if you don’t have a job in media, you will be rejected. “We’re trying to create a vibe of likeminded people together,” said Addy.

Although Soho House originated in England and many of its members are Brits, Addy said, “It’s not about being English. It’s about being a members-only club.”

There is, however, one other way to experience the stylish Soho House. If you just want the pleasure of the bar to mingle with the media “dahlings,” then hang out at one of the trendy Meatpacking bars to latch onto one of the 1,600 members, who are permitted to bring in two guests.