By Ed Litvak
March 27, 2013
As we have reported, Soho House planned to go before Community Board 3 next month, seeking support for a liquor license at 139 Ludlow Street. But the operators of the members’ club have decided to take some more time for community outreach before moving forward with their Lower East Side expansion plan, so the liquor application has been withdrawn, for now.
Soho House staff held several open houses the past two weekends inside the former funeral home on Ludlow Street. Letters were sent to around 1800 residents in the immediate area, explaining the project and inviting people to stop by to check out the plans. Yesterday afternoon, the community board was notified of the withdrawal.
Last night, we stopped by Soho House’s existing location in the Meatpacking District, where the club was hosting a small LES-centric get-together with CEO Nick Jones. Rachel Smith, the organization’s membership director, told us quite a few people stopped by during the open houses, but they felt it would be worthwhile to schedule some nighttime get-acquainted sessions for people who couldn’t make it earlier in the day. She also said Soho House is working on some ideas to address concerns about the exclusive nature inherent in the private club concept. Asked if he would consider another location on the LES, Jones said, no, the Ludlow Street building (which Soho House owns) is the only realistic option under consideration.
Opinions are divided on the Lower East Side about Soho House. A neighborhood group, LES Dwellers, has launched a campaign against the liquor license application, arguing that the club would bring more crowds to Ludlow Street and accelerate the pace of gentrification. Capalino and Company, a lobbying firm, has been gauging opinions among local elected officials. City Council member Margaret Chin made it clear she opposes Soho House’s liquor license application. Others have argued that Soho House, a social club for creative people, would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood’s cultural life.
Clayton Patterson, the Lower East Side documentarian and a Soho House supporter, was one of those present last night. Patterson told us he came to meet Nick Jones, and to hear directly from him about the club’s plans on the LES. He encouraged Jones to hold a free-flowing town hall-type meeting on the Lower East Side, giving neighbors a chance to voice their concerns. Jones seemed open to the idea.
In our conversation, Jones told us he genuinely wants to open the Ludlow Street club because there’s a heavy concentration of creative people on the Lower East Side. Jones said he has no intention of allowing Soho House on the LES to become a rowdy night club. The intent, as he explained it, is to provide a comfortable setting for artists and other creative people to relax, to interact and to hopefully find inspiration. He knows there are skeptics in the neighborhood. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to persuade them. But this much is clear: Soho House is patient and determined to win over the LES.