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PostIn London, Private Clubs are Thriving (Timothy Ashby, -Spain, 10/27/18 4:26 am)
John E asked on October 26th: "Are social clubs also a dying breed in other countries?"
While I can't comment on golf and country club membership levels, I can state that private members clubs in London are thriving. There is a dividing line between the newer (I've heard them called parvenu clubs) and traditional clubs which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The latter include The Athenaeum (where Rosemary's father Professor RV Jones was a member), White's, Brooks's, East India, National Liberal, and of course the Carlton Club where I am a member.
Many members of the old clubs wouldn't cross the thresholds of the newer clubs, although some such as 5 Hertford Street (where Rosemary is a member) are splendid and I've encountered some fellow members of the Carlton Club there, who rather ashamedly confided that they joined "for the food and the cellar." I've been to several of these new clubs such as the Groucho, Arts, Soho House and The Ned (which is like a big noisy nightclub catering to City millennials and which I couldn't wait to escape from). More of these new clubs seem to be springing up monthly. Membership fees are expensive--much more so than the traditional clubs.
The Carlton Club was founded in 1832 and is the oldest and most elite Conservative club in London. Until 2008 women were only allowed to be "lady associate members" unable to use the gentleman's bar or vote for club officials (although Margaret Thatcher was the sole woman to be given full membership before that date).
Times have certainly changed. Half of all new members under age 30 are now women (the youngest is 19). My daughter, Georgina (age 24), has just completed her membership application process, which requires a Proposer (her godmother, Lady Griffiths) and a Seconder (yours truly), after which she is given a page in a large ledger book kept in "Cad's Corner" (a cozy nook with a fireplace where ancient peers nap). She must then get 10 signatures from other club members on her page (which I recently procured after dutifully hanging out at the Macmillan Bar and plying members with drinks). Her final induction step will be an "interview" by Membership Committee members, which is all quite civilised and involves sipping sherry in the boardroom and chatting about career, family and (of course) politics.
Annual fees for under 30 members such as Georgina are just £450 with no joining fee. This is excellent value, as the Club has two very good restaurants and a fine cellar. A two course lunch in the (quite formal--think silverware, crested china, white tablecloths and a sommelier) Churchill Room costs £15, which is remarkable given how expensive nearby restaurants in St. James's are. Also, Members and their families can stay at the Club for a third to half the price of nearby hotels. I routinely use the Club for business meetings (it has a business center with computers, printers etc., called "the Study').
John--you have a standing invitation to be my guest for lunch at the Carlton Club!
JE comments: Ah, the perks of WAIShood! Many thanks, Tim. I owe London a visit--can my most recent one be as long ago as 2011, with the WAIS conference in Torquay?
Might London's "old clubs" be thriving because they offer (of all things) value? The only club that does this in the US belongs to Mr Walton--Sam's Club. Costco is a club, too, along the lines of the exclusive-yet-egalitarian model. Anyone can join for a fee. But as John Heelan said, "no thanks." I am philosophically against paying for the God-given right to shop.