Others such the New York Athletic Club are delivering meals to local hospitals or setting up commissaries that provide supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning agents for members. Soho House’s U.K. staff is helping provide thousands of meals daily for National Health Service workers; in he U.S., chefs at Cecconi’s West Hollywood are working with charity Frontline Foods to prepare 500 meals a week for health-care workers, and Dumbo House employees in New York are giving 500 meals daily to health workers in the area via the charity #InMyScrubs. Soho House Istanbul has provided 75 bedrooms for health-care workers; Soho House Amsterdam has handwritten cards to elders isolated in local senior communities. Other clubs are giving tennis and golf lessons and holding virtual book clubs.

Post-Pandemic Concerns
Beyond simple survival, a larger question looms: Once pandemic restrictions recede, will members even want to come back?

For some, club closures are an absence dearly felt. For others, prolonged time away, as can happen with lapsed gym-goers, could lead to the realization that they didn’t need to belong, after all. Those in the industry are banking on the idea that familiarity and safety go hand in hand.

“If anything, members’ clubs will be more relevant,” says Steven Rojas, a longtime social and lifestyle director in New York who has run programs for Soho Grand Hotel, Ian Schrager, and Equinox Hotels. “These places have always provided an upscale experience. The tight door and members-only environment will be crucial when deciding where to spend your time and money.

“The assumption is that, along with a more curated food and bar and a self-selecting clientele, you’ll also have more upscale, high-end sanitary conditions,” he continues.

That’s especially true upon considering that public alternatives are built to maximize table turnover.  

“Clubs will be the place where people feel comfortable returning to first,” predicts Wallmeyer. “Members will be familiar with all of the other people going to the club, and of course, they will trust that clubs will certainly be taking the necessary steps for precaution and hygiene.”

For some clubs, membership drops may almost be a moot point. Many of the more upper-crust clubs in the world have a golden parachute: They are canny real estate investments, especially for developers planning for and weathering a recession.

The seven-year-old Battery, which counts more than 4,600 members, occupies an artfully deconstructed warehouse near the piers in San Francisco. Robin Birley opened his elite 5 Hertford Street club in London’s Mayfair in 2012 to the tune of $50 million—with backing from the British billionaire Reuben brothers, who own the property. Soho House’s most recent expansion has been fueled by grocery billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos., a private equity firm he used to purchase a 60% stake in the group for about $375 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, Soho House is preparing for the future, improving its website and associated apps and curating (for purchase) boxes of home, bathroom, bar, and kitchen accessories sourced from and for members. Founder Nick Jones has even decided to open the club’s normally private website domain to anyone who wants to contribute art or creative work. The endeavor is meant to foster a sense of creative community.