Some things in life have to be experienced personally. Sex, for example. Colonoscopy. But eating in fancy restaurants and hanging out in beautiful places should never be a private affair. Unfortunately, New York is becoming a place where such pleasures are reserved for the privileged few.
The Big Apple has historically been the most common of the major cities. Except for a few clubs for alumni of Harvard, Yale, and other Ivy League institutions, almost all of them are open to those who can afford a night out—even if that means waiting on velvet ropes.
But suddenly, the members-only quarters that cater to global carpet makers are clogging up Page Six. As a lifelong New Yorker, this offends me. No, it makes me angry. Places of majesty and exclusivity are just what our brave and belligerent city does not need.
Common Offenders No. 1 is Cipriani House, a giant members-only hotel, restaurant and lounge atop the Battery Maritime Building in the city centre. The many Art Deco-inspired terrace dining rooms, bars and lounges are a sight to behold, both inside and out. You can enjoy stunning views of the East River and skyline. The Venetian-themed menu beats the arugula found in lesser Ciprianis.
But that’s off limits unless you’re a club member, or you’re paying over $800 per night for one of the 47 guest rooms. This, even though the property is owned by the city, is setting up tens of millions of taxpayer funds to restore the old ferry terminal to support the new structure on it.
It was a slap in the face for New Yorkers to be led to expect a hotel and party venue that was normal and open to everyone in the location.
“Casa”, which means “house” in Spanish and Italian, will not be open to ordinary New Yorkers in cross house one of.
Last week, two curious, fashionable-dressed young women who were not members were allowed into the brightly lit club on East 61st Street by a friendly doorman (who has most likely been fired since). Led to believe they were accepted, the women sat at the bar upstairs—only to be kicked coldly for not belonging to them.
Mayor Eric Adams’ favorite after-hours place is Zero Bond. An initiation fee of up to $4,000 plus an annual fee of up to $4,000 will not guarantee entry to “two floors of luxury lounge, private dining room, omakase restaurant, screening room, and library,” The New York Times reported.
Thanks to the membership committee it is also necessary to enjoy what founder Scott Sartiano calls “a New York version of London club.”
Very silly, if you ask me.
That’s not all. Nightlife mogul Robin Birley, whose face was once slashed by a tiger, want to launch glamorous members-only club at 828 Madison Ave., emulating his impenetrable style 5 Hertford Street in London. And carbon, where it’s already impossible to get a reservation, plans to open a members-only Carbone at Hudson Yards along with a Japanese restaurant. Nicknamed ZiZi . Clubit will be a branch of the owner’s private club in Miami.
Meanwhile, don’t even think about checking out the new one Safe Hotel in Mahkota Building on Fifth Street. Unlike other hotels in the city, the Aman restaurant, jazz club, lounge, and even the lobby are only accessible to room guests paying $3,200 and up per night or purchasing a $200,000 club membership. Hotel doormen dressed as Secret Service agents and guarded velvet ropes on East 57th Street like Fort Knox, sneered at would-be explorers.
It’s easy to joke about “personal” metastases. But it’s a cancer in New York City’s DNA. It exploits an insane desire for what New York City has never had but stimulates the elitist: the class system. From the first Dutch settlements to today’s 200-language metropolis, we are about inclusion, not exclusion.
We measure success in our accomplishments, not in the costs of initiation and desirability of “committee membership.” If we can succeed here, we can succeed anywhere, and we don’t need a private club to prove it.