The ultimate guide to NYC's members-only clubs
Peek inside the city's most exclusive clubs—including some your broke ass can actually afford—and find out how to get in.
Mon Apr 21 2014
Photograph: Vintage Images/Alamy
This city is all about exclusivity—underground shindigs hoi polloi don’t know about, invite-only dinners—so it makes sense that members-only clubs are still going strong in Gotham. But here’s the thing: You don’t need to be Richie Rich to get into all of ’em—although you’ll need to afford the 15K annual fee to be part of CORE:. In recent years, a bunch of affordable groups have popped up, catering to gourmands, artsy types, country-music lovers and others. So are you feeling suave and ready to go? Let's do this!
NYC's members only clubs
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Brooklyn Rod & Gun Club
The skinny: Prefer listening to old-timey country music and talking about bait (that’s fishing, you perv) to exploring the bustling city streets? This tiny, tackle-ornamented Williamsburg clubhouse is for you, a laid-back hang zone (established in 2009) where you and fellow outdoorsy types can chat about fly-fishing, drink a few beers and catch foot-stomping concerts from Thursday to Saturday. (Peaceniks, relax: No actual guns are involved.)
Good for: NYC’s dudeliest anglers, vintage-record lovers. (Kids are welcome too.)
How to get in: There’s a $100 membership fee, but anyone can use a $10 nightly pass to get into a show. facebook.com/brooklynrodandgun
- 59 Kent Ave between North 10th and 11th Sts
- Price band: 1/4
The skinny: The spirit of the Renaissance is alive and well at the Oracle Club. Artists and writers who join are given a key (ooh!) to ornate library and salon spaces where they can brainstorm, work, collaborate and, perhaps most important, hobnob.
Good for: Bespectacled, DIY-spirited laptop warriors in search of a more inspiring work environment than their dingy studio apartment or the local Starbucks. Also great for networkers looking for their next project.
How to get in: Shell out $150 a month and you’re golden. (917-519-2594, theoracleclub.com)
- 10-41 47th Ave, (between Vernon Blvd and 11th St)
Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello
The skinny: For NYC’s sculptors, painters and other visual artists, there’s plenty of room to work—1,600 square feet—at this 24-hour LES space cum artists’-collective headquarters.
Good for: Craftspeople who don’t have room to build large installations in their kitchens. So…any artist living in New York, basically.
How to get in: Schedule a tour online to check out the digs and show off your best work to current members. All applications are approved or denied via a collective-wide vote, so show ’em what you’ve got! Dues are $50 a year, plus $229 a month to use the roomy work space. (646-504-2323, conartistnyc.com)
- 119 Ludlow St between Delancey and Rivington Sts
The skinny: This national sensation, self-dubbed a “social dining experiment,” came to New York in September. For each dinner the group organizes, a rising-star chef prepares his or her own experimental menu and serves it at a secret, unorthodox location. Past spots have included an abandoned warehouse and Gleason’s boxing gym.
Good for: Foodies hungry for culinary innovation and bragging rights
How to get in: Dinner Lab has hit its 2,000-member cap, but you can fill out an admission request online in case a current beneficiary dies or something. Being part of the crew will set you back 175 bones—and that doesn’t cover your meals.
- Various locations, times and prices
- Price band: 2/4
The skinny: Between expeditions to the ends of the earth, adventurers and pioneers can rest at this old-world spot, open since 1904.
Good for: Humanity’s boldest globe-trotters and beyond-
the-globe-trotters (including John Glenn and, formerly,
How to get in: First, build up a résumé of groundbreaking scientific exploration. Now that the easy part’s over, apply online and get recommendation letters from two current members. Annual dues range from $35 to $1,000 depending on membership level. (212-628-8383, explorers.org)
- 46 E 70th St between Madison and Park Aves
Photograph: Krista Schlueter
The skinny: Founded by Crimson grads seeking a more nightclubby vibe than the stodgy Harvard Club, Parlor offers gratis dinner, late-night ragers fueled by pro DJs, and celeb pop-ins: Anthony Bourdain stopped by in 2012 to cook for a benefit hosted here.
Good for: Loaded young’uns who want to get loaded
How to get in: In the two-phase application process, submit yourself to an interview (to prove you possess the requisite hipness), then fork over the $1,500 annual membership fee (to prove you possess a requisitely large checking account). (212-414-2902, parlornewyork.com)
- 286 Spring St between Hudson and Varick Sts
The skinny: Home base for New York’s 1 percent, this is where hedge-fund magnates and the power players of politics and entertainment can gawk at art,
sip cocktails and network without fear of consorting with riffraff (that’s you—and us!), thanks to astronomical membership fees.
Good for: The Illuminati, possibly. Also Bill Clinton. Assuming the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
How to get in: Be recommended by a current member and pay a $50,000 initiation fee, as well as $15,000 in annual dues. Everyday stuff. (212- 486-6600, thecoreclub.com)
- 66 E 55th St between Madison and Park Aves
The skinny: Turns out the urge to rub elbows with social elites extends to animal elbows. Here your furry friend can frolic with other dogs in the play area, and treats await canines and humans alike: Bocce’s Bakery biscuits for the pups, free coffee for the owners.
Good for: Man’s best friends. Oh, and their best friends. You know, people.
How to get in: To be added to the waiting list, fill out a four-page questionnaire on your pooch’s health, feeding preferences and behavioral history. Once Buster’s admitted (a referral from a current member will get you in faster), it’ll run you $149 a year. (347-829-7833, ruffclub.com)
- 34 Ave A between 2nd and 3rd Sts
The Players Club
The skinny: Despite recent financial troubles, this haven for stage stars and their wealthiest patrons has lasted since the 1880s.
Good for: Thespians (or fervent supporters of the arts) who want to crow about having something in common with Mark Twain and William Tecumseh Sherman, two founding members.
How to get in: Current members must propose and second all applicants. Initiation costs $1,500, with membership fees running $2,000 annually ($1,500 for those in actors’ unions). (212-475-6116, theplayersnyc.org)
- 16 Gramercy Park South between Park Ave South and Irving Pl
Photograph: Poul Ober
The skinny: The famous rooftop pool—which hosted a Mumford & Sons concert this past summer—isn’t the only height-of-luxury amenity at this ritzy British import. There’s also a spa, a well-stocked pantry bar and a 44-seat screening room.
Good for: Entertainment bigwigs like Robert De Niro and Harvey Weinstein. Also Anglophiles. (And actual English people. There are gobs of them here.)
How to get in: Submit a letter of recommendation, an application answering two short essay questions and a recent photo (yes, seriously) in person at the club. The annual fee is $2,000, but only half that for members under 27. It pays to be young and beautiful here. (212-627-9800, sohohouseny.com)
- 29–35 Ninth Ave between 13th and 14th Sts
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