Who's afraid of Soho House?
'I think this will be the hardest one for them to pull off'
Dear Millers — Does Manchester need an outpost of the world’s most famous private members social club? Yes, we’re talking about Soho House. Access to a rooftop pool might sound fun (if a little optimistic, especially after the “summer” we’ve had…), but at £1,800 a year for a standard membership, you’d have to have some deep pockets. We sent Mollie to do some digging.
But before we get there: an Oxford Road bus crash and underground fires in our news briefing.
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Your Mill briefing
Wigan Council are set to trial a new technique to try and put out an underground fire. Leftover coal and other industrial material have been burning under Green Lane, in Leigh, since 2021. The council say the fire is no risk to nearby homes. However, it is damaging to local woodland. A three-week trial of pouring liquid grout into the fire will start next month. If it is successful, the new method will provide a way of dealing with underground fires under other post-industrial areas that is quicker, cheaper and more sustainable than excavation.
The home where 27-year-old Josh Brooks died due to exposure to mould last October was inspected three times between 2018 and 2021. Every inspection found evidence of mould, leaks, missing plaster and electrical faults, but the Brooks family’s complaints about these issues were never followed up. Josh died of aspergillus pneumonia — aspergillus being a type of mould that attacks the lungs.
Sexy Fish, the splashy seafood restaurant open in Mayfair since 2015, will be opening a new site in Spinningfields. The rumours have been swirling about the move for some time, and now Richard Caring, the owner of Sexy Fish as well as The Ivy — which also has an outpost in Spinningfields — has confirmed it is going ahead.
It’s now understood that the driver of the bus that hit a central reservation on Oxford Road on Tuesday suffered a medical episode before the crash. Seven people were taken to the hospital after the event and around 15 to 20 suffered minor injuries.
Who’s afraid of Soho House?
By Mollie Simpson
In March last year, Nick Jones was on stage with hospitality mogul Thom Hetherington. Jones, who founded the world-famous chain of luxury private members clubs, Soho House, told Hetherington he was feeling nervous. Jones was once described by the Evening Standard as an “older, posher, calmer version of Jamie Oliver.” In the same feature, he divulged that his ideal night is “a comfy night in front of the television”. He doesn't sound easy to startle. So what was causing this attack of nerves? Nothing less than wanting to launch the latest Soho House in Manchester.
“I really hope it will work, but I’m not in any way presuming it will,” he said. “We want to employ everyone from Manchester, and then spend a lot of time learning and listening. There will be an element of glamour to the place, but with an element of grit too.”
Was he being genuine? Hard to say. Maybe this seemingly serene person, like many of us, is more anxious than he first seems. Or perhaps it’s just a great PR gambit — a subtle wooing of Mancunians and adopted-Mancunians alike. The titan of the members-club industry professing nerves at trying to impress the unique, interesting Mancunians (and this in 2023, when, as a colleague memorably put it, Manchester is starting to feel like “if Brewdog built a city”). Either way, this professed attack of nerves is a reasonable one.
Of course it’s possible that Manchester will reject Soho House’s London-esque premise of a place that brings together luxury, hipness and a certain degree of social climbing. At the time of writing, Soho House Manchester has been painted as elitist and ridiculous by critics on Reddit and mocked in the MEN for bringing a rooftop pool to a city not best-known for its weather. “I have a feeling they might be 'at capacity' for people like us,” one person wrote on Reddit. Another said “Soho House in London has a culture of clout chasers and networking. Accelerating the inequality in the city massively and pulling the ‘heart’ from Manchester or what it once was.”
So is there a way for Soho House to be truly Mancunian? And will Mancunians accept Soho House?
Soho House was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 and now boasts 39 clubs worldwide. It’s currently valued at $2.8bn after being listed on the New York Stock Exchange and it’s expanding quickly. The latest club is opening in the former Granada Studios building in spring 2024 and it promises a casual lounge area, Italian fine dining, a gym, a steam room and a sauna that will open up onto a balcony. It has 133 bedrooms as part of Mollie’s Motel and Diner, and a spiral staircase leads you up to the rooftop pool, where there will be late-night music and a bar serving drinks until 4am, Monday to Sunday.
It’s aimed at people in the creative and arts industries and self-defines as “a place for our diverse membership to connect, grow, have fun, and make an impact”, with a particular focus on creating opportunities for young people. Our editor very occasionally used to go to the Soho House in Berlin as a plus one and she describes it as “a place where you can eat very tiny servings of sushi and wash them down with dinky little cocktails for an irresponsible amount of money” while watching a Soundcloud rapper surreptitiously try and take poolside selfies.
Tiny expensive cocktails… places where groovy creatives can hang out: isn’t that similar to a lot of what this city already has?
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