Casa Cipriani Jazz Club
New York’s nightlife came to a halt during the pandemic and crime wave in 2020-2022; as a group of private members only clubs sprung up resulting in a preemption of the ubiquitous club scene. As night spots 1 OAK, Up and Down, and Avenue closed their doors, club crawlers turned to ultra exclusive enclaves to fraternize despite their exorbitant price points and arduous vetting processes. 100-year-old institutions like the Harmonie, Core, Union and Metropolitan Club which have catered to old and newer money such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Hearst’s, Eisenhowers and Lauders were replaced by bourgeois meccas Casa Cipriani, Zero Bond and Aman whose coveted membership list includes the upper echelons of the finance, arts and entertainment industry.
I know a handful of “CAZ”‘s an acronym I use to describe those who belong to Casa, Aman and Zero Bond; and these three memberships are harder to attain then an EGOT and more lusted after than admission to Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Mayor Eric Adams loves all these New York meccas frequently hopping from one to the next with abandon! And yes there is plenty of controversy at these hidden fortresses. For instance did you know a top New York socialite’s membership was revoked after she brought her friend to Aman who was caught sniffing cocaine at an open table? These are not the clubs of the 90’s where drug use was rampant – a whiff of any narcotic is completely prohibited.
Ushering in the private club era was Soho House: founded in 1995 and maintaining an initiation fee of $1,000 and an all access membership of $4,815 per year. Its aggressive expansion is unparalleled: opening 18 new venues in 2023 to add to its 28 clubs while losing creative identity in favor of economic gains. Now referred to as the “Membership Collective Group”owner Ron Burkle who finally turned a $13.5 million profit in 2022 plans to open 5-7 Soho Houses per year.
Casa Cipriani ballroom
The more exclusive Casa Cipriani, located in the boondocks at 10 South Street, has emerged victorious in the club wars. Its doors opened on August 16, 2021 to a crowd of 3,000 some of whom paid for a global individual membership that requires a $2,000 initiation fee along with a $5,000 annual stipend. Page Six recently reported its trashy vibe was forcing it to seek a more artsy crowd; this is absolutely fake news which many think was contrived by competing clubs.
With its 4,000 person waitlist Casa houses the top real estate developers, financiers and creative types – every night of the week is brimming with A-listers. Yes they have cracked down on photo-snapping; but that is because their high powered crowd is camera shy. A second home to Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Hudson and Gigi Hadid, this hotspot’s only wannabes are those who wanna be members! The only way to circumvent the impossible entry is pursuing an exorbitant and more easily attained $150,000 lifetime membership and pray your life span increases to 200. With a restaurant, terrace, and jazz club located on the fifth floor, this mahogany masterpiece looks like the Titanic without the sinking part. In fact this mega hit is very much afloat after being awarded a $100 million refinancing bridge loan in April 2023 as the glitterati of New York clamor for entry.
Taylor Swift may have relinquished her Casa membership due to photos being taken of her and flavor of the month Matt Healy but she should have known Swifties abound in her neighborhood – downtown New York. With a Casa in Milan, one rumored to be on its way to Miami and whispers of a Beverly Hills branch – there is no stopping the Cayre family-who hold a 30 percent stake and their investors. A rooftop pool is scheduled to open this August in New York to accompany the current 15,000 square foot spa and 47-room hotel.
Despite its three-guest policy Casa’s packed dining room and terrace area can barely contain excessive weekend crowds that show little signs of abating. The versatility of the crowd which ranges from age 21-91 is what makes this melting pot so uniquely New York. Don’t bother showing up in a hoodie, ripped jeans and baseball cap as my friend who did so was forced to make a quick trip to Soho to purchase a $5,000 leather jacket and pants to ensure entry. Eric Adams dumped Zero Bond in favor of Casa Cipriani’s Gilded halls months ago – a harbinger of its premier spot on the New York social calendar.
Zero Bond, the least friendly place in New York, similarly maintains “zero chance” of entry. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Michael Rubin, are a smattering of the billionaires who have dined and partied there. Opened in October 2020, initiation for those over 45 is $5,000 along with a $4,400 per annum payment, as opposed to $1,000 and $3,850 per annum for those 28-45. Applying is futile unless you are besties with owner Scott Sartiano who famously told Bloomberg, “I’m putting up a gate, I’m building a wall, and there’s criteria to get inside”- that sounds hospitable. This cavernous space is frequently uninhabited and says stay away as tables are separated by partitions and guests have a disdainful who the heck are you look.
Aside from a minimal work space, an average restaurant run by executive chef Richard Farnabe, a Tuesday night poker game and an overcrowded bar Zero Bond offers little except the cache of being able to say you belong. With members such as Tom Brady, Zac Posen, Liev Schreiber and Kim Kardashian (the only one who goes) this 20,000 square foot Noho space containing $10 million in art feels as convivial as an iceberg in Antártica. However, if you can get past these velvet ropes and the 8,000 person wait list you and your three permitted guests have arrived in more ways than one. There is even a VIP Baccarat room which requires fingerprint scanners for entrance.
14th Floor of Aman New York
At the top of the heap in terms of beauty and price is Aman located at a more convenient 730 Fifth Avenue, with a $200,000 initiation fee along with $15,000 annual dues. If you are lucky enough to join with 5 others for $40,000 each you can enjoy the numerous wine tastings, Wednesday night DJ and $10 million basement Jazz Club. After a $1.5 billion renovation completed in August 2022, the epic 14th floor terrace along with the 25,000 square foot spa with a 66 foot indoor pool and restaurants Arva and Nama-is a welcome haven from the chaos of New York.
While a more generous policy of five guests is permitted, there is a blacklist of those prohibited from entering the main 14th floor room. In 2024 this elegant edifice will open in the Faena district of Miami after owner Vladimir Doronin secured a $243 million loan.
The brisk openings of New York private clubs is only gaining steam as Major Food Group is bringing ZZ’s to 3 floors across 25,000 square feet at 37 Hudson Yards for an initial fee of $50,000 along with a $10,000 annual payment. A private Carbone, a boutique nightclub and a multiple private dining rooms are planned for this space. Moreover, London nightlife king Robin Birley is planning a repeat of his London enclave 5 Hertford Street at 12,000 square feet on 828 Madison Avenue.
Finally, Californian staple San Vicente Bungalows which Harry and Meghan frequent along with Harry unwinding in a private “escape” room there sans Meghan, will join operator Jeff Klein at the West Village’s Jane Hotel for a private members only club entitled “SVB NYC”- paradigmatic of the out-of-control burgeoning exclusive access trend that shows little signs of waning.