Soho House, an Exclusive Members-only Club, Wants to Help Heal Jaffa

When Nick Jones came to sell New York on a branch of his private members’ club, the World Trade Center was attacked. Political disasters accompanied Soho House openings in Istanbul and Hong Kong. Now a club has opened in Tel Aviv's Jaffa district, just months after violent disturbances there

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Nick Jones.
Nick Jones.Credit: Franck Sauvaire
Neta Halperin
Neta Halperin
Neta Halperin
Neta Halperin

It was a spring morning in May, the month when the atmosphere in Jaffa was heating up. Local residents were worriedly following the violent clashes that, in the meantime, had received only marginal media coverage. That morning, however, there was no sign of violence: The sidewalks on Yefet Street were lined with families dressed in festive clothing, proudly watching their children as members of the Arab and Druze Scouts band marched in lockstep, flooding the street with the sound of flutes and trumpets.

The band passes a turreted building that was built for the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, a French order of nuns, toward the end of the 19th century. In this impressive structure, which stood empty for many years, preparations were being completed for the launch of Soho House, a private members’ club. The branch – aka the House – in Jaffa was set to join 30 other Soho Houses scattered around the world, in the downtown areas of major cities, in the blossoming countryside or abutting attractive beaches.

Through the scaffolding and the clouds of dust, one could already see the finish line: Next to the courtyard bar, which spreads over the northern part of the yard, there would be tall chairs, and juices and health salads would be served. The Studio – the building’s central space – was to be filled with yoga practitioners during the morning hours, and the plan was for performances, lectures and other events to be held there in the evening. The swimming pool, on the southern side, was soon to be filled with crystalline water and colorful cocktails would be served to those lolling on the lounge chairs. The beautifully equipped kitchen, under the supervision of the chef Guy Malka, would provide the building’s five bars and restaurants with Mediterranean-inspired dishes, alongside some of Soho House’s signature dishes from around the world, like “dirty” burgers and chicken paillard.

The Study, on the other hand, was an area to be used in collective, WeWork style, so that members can work in comfort without defiling the rest of the building with atmosphere-dampening laptops. The guest rooms in the hotel section on the upper floors were being outfitted with furnishings of the type identified with Soho House: warm, eclectic design, luxurious yet approachable. All of this pleasure (minus a stay at the hotel, where prices start at 950 shekels – $300 – a night, available only to members and their friends) can be yours for an annual fee of 8,800 shekels (for international membership), or 7,200 shekels ($2,250) for those who aren’t interested in visiting other Houses all over the world. Small change.

“This is the only place where people can spend the whole day, from morning till night, or just hop by when it’s convenient for them – for morning coffee, a dip in the pool or a meeting at the bar, and then come back in the evening for an exhibition or a party,” asserts Nick Jones, the founder of the Soho House empire. “I used to have to go to six different places to fit in what Soho House can offer in a single day.”

But circumstances juxtaposed this abundance of escapism with tough timing and a bloody reality. Our first conversation took place during the afternoon of May 11, ahead of the club’s scheduled opening on May 28. The evening before we spoke, rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip at Jerusalem and a sense of distressing uncertainty hovered in the air. “The situation is very worrisome as of now, and we’re following developments closely,” Jones responded to my question.

Even then, it was far from obvious that, within a few hours, rocket barrages would send residents of Israel’s central region scurrying to their bomb shelters. And that when they emerged from the shelters and returned to their homes, they would discover on their TV screens that Jews and Arabs were beating each other to death in a number of cities, with reports of one lynching attack or another being swallowed up in the unbelievable flow of events. That parts of Gaza would resemble a pile of smoking rubble. That alongside the other horrors, at a home within walking distance of the hospitality and leisure temple that had been planned down to the tiniest detail in Jaffa, a firebomb had been tossed, almost casually, into the living room of 12-year-old Muhammad Gintazi, who suffered severe burns all over his face and body.

Inside Jaffa's new Soho House. Credit: Dor Sharon for olala

The timing was even more miserable considering that one of the club’s key aspirations, articulated time and again by the Soho House management, was that the place would reflect Jaffa’s mixed population in all of its many variations. In other words, that coexistence in Jaffa would find expression not only in the artworks hanging on the walls or on the menu that was created in collaboration with local suppliers, both Arabs and Jews; nor only in the composition of the House’s staff, which includes both Arabs and Jews – but also in the makeup of the club’s membership.

“Those were the most worrying days,” says Jones, when we speak a second time, three months later, in the blazing heat of an Israeli August. “We assessed the situation closely and we’re still assessing it. We were blessed with many members who gave us different perspectives and we simply listened to them. Fortunately, we’re not under any pressure with anything related to the opening.”

In fact, Jaffa’s Soho House ended up opening on September 1, coronavirus delta variant be damned. “What we’ve learned over the past 18 months is not to plan too far ahead, because things are almost certain to change,” he says.

Has the pandemic made your company more agile, more dynamic?

“Definitely. And it was quite a big change because in any case, we’re a global company, and when we establish a new House, everything is planned down to the last comma. So, we had to learn how to do things differently. During the pandemic, we opened a new House in Austin, Texas, and it’s a success. We’re opening additional Houses in Paris in September and in Rome in October. It’s challenging, without a doubt, but it’s possible.”

The question is whether the vision of coexistence the Soho House people saw in their mind’s eye is also possible in the fragile social fabric of Jaffa. On the one hand, the city, which is slowly recovering from the May clashes, has actually seen several upscale restaurants and bars open up recently. Examples include Kabakeh, the Jaffa branch of the Ezba restaurant in the Galilee village of Rameh; Pick, an “ecological” bar serving cocktails and food made from produce grown in their own nearby garden; Alma Deli, whose products are based on locally sourced ingredients; and Mr. Something Lounge, featuring kosher Japanese dishes. All of these new enterprises are situated around Kikar Kedumim, the central plaza in Jaffa’s Old City, which is undergoing a surprising revival. Soho House, an updated version of a gentlemen’s club for the upper class, fits in well with this trend. And yet one still can’t help wondering whether, considering all that’s happening outside, Jews and Arabs will still lounge around the stylish pool side-by-side, sipping Picante de la Casa cocktails and noshing on chicken paillard.

Istanbul’s Soho House. Located in the former premises of the city’s American consulate, it opened shortly before an attempted military coup in 2016. Credit: Engin Aydeniz

From Jones’ viewpoint, the question doesn’t exist. “Our vision won’t change. On the contrary: In my eyes, the state of things only intensifies the importance of this project. We’re a diverse and inclusive community and our members are located in places all around the world, including some in which matters are far from ideal. We like to think that Soho House is a kind of safe house for our members. We’re not politicians, but on our part, we’ll do everything we can to help heal the inner scars, which to my mind are worse than the rockets.”

One can’t help wondering whether, considering what’s happening outside, Jews and Arabs will lounge around the stylish pool side-by-side, sipping cocktails and noshing on chicken paillard.

And then came 9/11

Jones’ level-headedness was acquired through hard work. This is not the first time that complex projects he has put together have run into unforeseen obstacles; in fact, from the moment Soho House ventured beyond the borders of the United Kingdom and outstretched its arms to embrace the world, Jones’ plans have collided time and again with harsh realities – the diametrical opposite of the experience Soho House wants to sell.

The summer of 2019 was the date set for the launch of the company’s magnificent branch in Hong Kong, its first House in Asia. But while Jones’ seasoned team labored to finish the splendid spa, the spacious cinema and the sparkling pool located in a high-rise building in the city’s Sheung Wan neighborhood, the situation outside became increasingly stormy. This was when the Beijing regime declared its intention to impose a package of laws meant to limit Hong Kong’s autonomy and pave the way for direct intervention by China’s security forces in cases where there was a suspicion of subversive, secessionist or terrorist activity. It also included a prohibition on the activity of citizens’ political organizations. This harsh decree caused masses of protesters to pour into the streets. More than 8,000 people were arrested during that year’s protests. Police made extensive use of tear gas, while the protesters threw umbrellas and other objects at the police.

The opening of Hong Kong’s Soho House was postponed for some months. It wasn’t the first time Jones had had such an experience: The Istanbul branch, located in the building that once housed the city’s American consulate, opened a short time before an attempted military coup in 2016. During the ensuing unrest in Istanbul, at least 300 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured, and that upheaval was followed by a huge wave of arrests that rounded up more than 40,000 people, including thousands of judges and educators.

“Because we operate globally, and because after we decide to open a place, we work for two or three years until the launch itself – things happen in the meantime,” Jones shrugs. “Sometimes it’s an economic crisis, sometimes it’s protests and during the past year, we learned that a pandemic is also a possibility.”

The most outstanding example of life intervening can be found in the circumstances surrounding the establishment of Soho House New York, the company’s first international outpost. “We found an interesting location for the House in the Meatpacking District [in Manhattan] and we went to New York in September 2001 to discuss it with the local planning committee. On the morning of September 11, I was sitting and eating breakfast in a café. Suddenly I heard an insanely thunderous boom,” he recounts.

Jones ran outside and saw with his own eyes a Boeing 767, American Airlines Flight 11, embedded in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He immediately called his wife, Kirsty Young, who was at the time a news presenter for Britain’s ITV in London, and she put him on the air. Just a few minutes after he finished updating the British public about the horrific event, he saw United Airlines Flight 175 smash head-on into the South Tower.

Given the circumstances, you didn’t think about changing your mind, or at least postponing the establishment of the New York House?

“On the contrary, it only made me love New York even more. The city’s spirit, the sense of community – all this only intensified and became more evident in the days following 9/11. It was clear to me that this is where we need to be.”

Much to Jones’ surprise, the meeting with the planning committee did take place during that same week and the establishment of Soho House in the Meatpacking District, a rundown neighborhood that was then in the midst of reinventing itself, was approved unanimously. It opened in 2003.

Overall, a disaster

Unflappability, nerves of steel, adventurousness, courage, a fine-tuned sensitivity to cultural moods and more than a little self-directed humor: These are the traits that transformed Nick Jones from the owner of the first Soho House – a French bistro on Greek Street in London’s Soho district, to which a private club later was added – into the executive he is today.

The brilliant success that Soho House has enjoyed almost since its start is especially interesting in light of the fact that its founder was not predicted to succeed in anything at all. Jones, who turns 58 later this month, was diagnosed with severe dyslexia when he was 11. “I couldn’t really write very well and I certainly couldn’t spell,” he told Hospitality Design Magazine in a video interview earlier this year. “I then went to another school, which really supported that.”

But even there the difficulties persisted and Jones, who grew up in Surrey, England, struggled with reading and writing, which was reflected in the extremely low grades he received. “The school’s careers master told me, ‘Well, Nick, there’s no obvious career for you to go into.’ And that pointed toward a career in hospitality... In Britain, 35 years ago, there weren’t many good restaurants or hotels, and it was seen as a bit of a dog’s dinner of a job – if you couldn’t do anything else, you went into hospitality. And I thought that was a good opportunity,” he told Hospitality Design.

We like to think that Soho House is a kind of safe house for our members. We’ll do everything we can to help heal the inner scars, which to my mind are worse than the rockets.

Nick Jones

Thus, what looked to others like an official declaration of failure aroused in Jones a sense of hope and excitement. “From a young age, I always loved it when my parents entertained at home. I loved taking part in it. I loved the attention to all the small details. I like to see people having a good time when they’re doing the simplest, most everyday things, and that’s what I wanted to do, too,” he says.

He was invited to an interview for admission to a hotel training course run by the Savoy, in London, but he was so nervous he couldn’t get a word out of his mouth. “Of course, I wasn’t accepted,” he laughs. “But I did get accepted to a less prestigious course operated by the Trust House Forte chain, during which I got to know all the departments – I worked in the kitchen for a year, I answered phones, until I reached the position of house manager, one of the most demanding and terrible jobs a person could have. But it was good training and I acquired a deep, basic familiarity with every single aspect of that realm.”

With money he saved from these taxing jobs, along with funding he raised, Jones bought his first property – a restaurant called Over the Top that occupied the corner of Greek and Compton streets in London. “Overall, it was a disaster,” Jones summed up for Hospitality Design. “It really taught me a lot: it taught me how to run a profitable business, it taught me what customers want. But at Over the Top, none of those insights existed. We didn’t make money, and the place was pretty empty except for four of my poor friends who were forced to come there frequently and suffer. The food was disgusting, the service was awful, the design was, how should I put it, simply embarrassing. The menu included hamburgers, a piece of chicken, lamb or steak and then you chose some toppings, and the toppings were pretty off-putting. I remember myself sitting there at lunchtime, alone, watching as people walked past the restaurant without giving a thought to coming inside.”

The failed attempt did not discourage Jones. “I decided to give myself one last chance and create, in the same space, a place that reflected the lessons I’d learned,” he says. The name of the restaurant, which he converted into a French bistro, subjecting it to a total makeover, was changed to Café Boheme. “It’s been running successfully for 25 years.”

In 1995, when Jones heard that the floor above the restaurant had become vacant, he bought the space and decided to establish a private members’ club there. While in Israel the words “private members’ club” carry connotations of acceptance committees at rural settlements, in Britain the concept is familiar and well-rooted, the natural continuation of the gentlemen’s clubs that have been in operation for more than 300 years.

But unlike White’s, which was established in 1693 and is the oldest such club in London, with members including Prince Charles and his son Prince William, and unlike Annabel’s in posh Mayfair in central London, in which membership confers a sort of official seal of belonging to the upper crust – Jones hoped to draw members from a different kind of aristocracy: the creative-bohemian crowd that populated the realms of theater, media, literature, art and fashion.

At that time, however, Jones, who had spent the preceding years in an empty and wildly unpopular restaurant, didn’t know any of the people he aspired to attract to his club. “When I started Soho House, I found myself in uncharted territory: I didn’t know any media people, I didn’t go out to clubs. All I did was work. But I had no alternative – I had to call people, go from theater to theater, go to museums, newspaper offices and fashion shows, where I would leave invitations to the club behind the scenes. It was very stressful, but I believed the concept would catch on. After all, there’s no lack of creative, intelligent people who appreciate quality but don’t want to pay a fortune. And that’s what we offered them.”

Jones’ efforts paid off. Within a short time, the private club named Soho House had become a hub frequented by the creative class he longed for. He offered his members a place that was urban yet intimate; the possibility of linking money, prestige and connections in an elegant yet effortless atmosphere; and that elusive yet rewarding feeling of being in the right place at the right time.

Three years later, in 1998, Jones established another House, at Babington House, a Georgian manor in Somerset (some 200 kilometers to the west of London) that was built in 1705. Soho House Babington also operated as a private members’ club and welcomed all Soho House members who wanted both to enjoy urban life and to holiday in the countryside.

New members were accepted only after being recommended by two club members and, of course, after paying an annual membership fee. This foundation strengthened the brand’s reputation for exclusivity and even contributed to its growth, from two Houses in 1998 to 30 Houses today, spread across the globe from Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam, through Toronto and Malibu, and all the way to Mumbai.

The right people

In 2016, The Guardian published an article under the headline “Soho House struggles to maintain appeal for ‘magic people.’” The question of how to ensure that the brand stays hot enough and relevant enough to justify its membership fees and retain the right members has dogged Soho House from the moment it decided to become a contemporary version of the British Empire, establishing more and more Houses in desirable locations across the planet.

David Bowie and Iman, in a 1994 photo in London. When he visited Manhattan’s Soho House a decade later, the singer asked to “buy the whole club.” Credit: Greg Bos / Reuters

“The whole point of private members’ clubs is that exclusivity, that they are where the magic people will all gather,” the veteran social commentator Peter York was quoted as telling The Guardian. “Soho House is a very efficient operation, but there is one at every turn now, and they have diluted their brand to, I think, their detriment.”

He went on to say “they’ve lost that sheen, and that’s why it’s not where the magic people, the famous people, go any more.”

It takes mental flexibility, if not some gentle acrobatics, to integrate diversity and inclusion into a cultural enterprise based on those who win acceptance into its gates versus those who don’t.

A good example of this, again, is the club in New York. Jones’ gamble paid off there: New York in the post-9/11 summer of 2003 craved a sense of vibrancy and festivity, spiced with a pinch of glam. Spread over six stunningly designed floors and featuring a rooftop swimming pool, Soho House supplied it. Harvey Weinstein (at the time, still a much sought-after personality) held special screenings of his films there, and women in Jimmy Choo stilettos strutted through its renowned closed parties.

About a year after the New York opening, Jones invited a few dozen selected members to an intimate party at the venue. The guests included Robert de Niro and Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Most dazzling of all was the couple whose presence generated the most fantastic public relations that a club owner could have wished for in 2003 – if not for all time. After dinner, David Bowie and his wife, the fashion model Iman, stepped out on the terrace and gazed at the city’s glittering lights. “I like the idea,” the legendary musician said as he gestured toward his tipsy friends sitting around the dining table. “Can I buy the whole club?”

“I won’t deny it – my jaw dropped when he offered to buy the club,” Jones chuckles. “I suggested instead that he become an investor, and he promptly agreed.”

Did you become friends?

“I’d like to think so,” he chuckles again. “I was quite nervous when I met him for the first time, and he couldn’t have been any nicer, more charming and more generous than he was. I met with him quite a lot. He was a good investor, very intelligent and fair. He was simply world-class, as a performer and no less as a person.”

A scene from a"Sex and the City" episode featuring Soho House.Credit: HBO

One of Soho House’s well-known ironclad rules is a total prohibition on photography inside its clubs. On the one hand, this protects the privacy of its guests, especially A-list members who want to live it up without any damning documentation. On the other hand, the prohibition is meant to intensify the club’s mystique, despite the fact that the company itself has allowed media access to photos that show Paul Rudd and Michelle Williams smiling at a screening of “The Station Agent” at Soho House New York, where part of the movie was filmed; Peter Dinklage, Pharrell Williams and Mos Def attending a screening of “City of God”; or Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci enjoying themselves at a cocktail party.

Unlike other private clubs in the United Kingdom or New York, whose prestige rides on the policy of staying distant from the media so members’ names are known only to those who need to know, Soho House aspired to become a celebrity itself, even while aiming to guard its members’ privacy. In the spirit of the times, it broke into the public consciousness by way of a 2003 episode of “Sex and the City.” Exhausted by the New York heat, Samantha goes to the club’s reception desk and protests her perpetual place on the membership waiting list. When the hostess replies with British frostiness, Samantha sneaks in with her friends and plunges into the pool, where she is caught red-handed.

After this, it seemed that the club refused to stay out of the headlines. In 2002, the British tabloids went wild after it was reported that Iris, the 2-year-old daughter of Jude Law and Sadie Frost, was hospitalized after swallowing half a tab of Ecstasy that had been left on the floor of the London club. The mishap occurred as she and her parents attended a kids’ birthday party for the son of Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey; Iris, by the way, emerged unscathed.

And rumors popped up about celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, who probably weren’t cool enough for Soho House and got stuck in waiting-list limbo (Jones’ reaction to the rumor can be described as frozen-faced), about the quid pro quo among the members of the acceptance committee, who bestowed membership on “their people.” These mini-scandals and others helped to magnify the club’s image as a place where things happen, in the consciousness of potential customers and also of those who would never make it past the front gate.

But it’s in the nature of hype to fade, certainly in a space as competitive as Manhattan nightlife. By 2008, those who entered Soho House New York encountered less of the stardust and more of the massive presence of Wall Street types as they crowded around the bar for the 5 P.M. happy hour.

Jones understood that after that same year’s financial crash, his guests weren’t interested in meeting up with battalions of smug bankers at the entrance to the club’s bar. At first, a politely assertive sign was placed at the front door, instructing members to refrain from wearing a suit and tie inside. A few weeks later, more than 500 members received a letter informing them that regrettably, their Soho House membership would not be renewed the following year.

The media gave extensive coverage to what it called the “purge.” The New York Post opened its report with the sentence: “First it was a purge of the suits — now Soho House is getting rid of the people who wear them,” under the headline “Posh Soho House boots ‘uncool’ members.” The article included heartrending testimony from club members, whose bewilderment over the cancellation never received a direct response.

Jones refused to apologize for the move. “We are trying to get the club back to its creative roots,” he told The Post. “When I went there, it didn’t have the right feel anymore. It has always been a creative, friendly place with a relaxed feel. If there are too many corporate types around, then that atmosphere doesn’t occur.”

“I’d be upset, too, if it happened to me,” he continued. “When we started this process, we knew we were going to upset people, but none of it was personal.”

I always say that when I, a 57-year-old white male, visit one of our Houses, I want to feel like the odd man out – and I feel this more and more frequently.

Nick Jones

Creative roots or not, it was clear that Jones was willing to take drastic measures and even lose quite a bit of money, provided that he’d be able to preserve the right mix for his members and the right image in the eyes of those who observed jealously from the outside.

The bankers anecdote reveals a lot about Jones’ survival instinct, and his ability to leverage any situation: Not only did this unusual step garner heaps of publicity, which the place certainly needed at the time; not only did the slots of the hundreds of bankers who were sent home get filled by the “creative class” that Jones was so fond of, resolutely non-corporate types who injected fresh blood into the club and themselves contributed to raising its profile – he even found a solution for the bankers problem in 2017 when he established The Ned, a prestigious private club in London meant for people from the financial aristocracy. And, of course, that move also sent quite a bit of money streaming into Jones’ coffers.

A year after the bankers affair, Jones launched his first House in Los Angeles, which was an instant success. In The New York Times, one cultural observer noted that, “in New York, we don’t tend to like things that announce themselves as elitist. We like to be the ones to find something and stamp it with specialness, as opposed to being told: ‘Get on line. You might qualify for entry.’” In Hollywood, however, Soho House’s “unveiled social Darwinism” was a hit from its very first day, The Times said.

The exterior of the Soho House in Jaffa, housed in a late-19th-century structure built originally for the Sisters of St. Joseph.Credit: Dor Sharon for olala

Hollywood stars like Justin Timberlake and Demi Moore, who were happy with the no-cameras policy and the paparazzi-free private entrance directly from the parking lot, became familiar faces at the club. On the heels of this success, additional Houses were quickly established in downtown LA and in Malibu.

Jones’ sharp senses, which had served him so well in 2009, were not dulled in 2021, when elitism turned into a stale and invalid concept. Jones is not an especially loquacious interviewee, but if there are two words that will lead him to joyfully expand on his comments, they are “inclusion” and “diversity,” two of the right ideas of this cultural moment. The discourse about them has veered into the world of leisure, just as it has filtered down into the realms of entertainment and fashion.

It takes mental flexibility, if not some gentle acrobatics, to integrate these two principles into a cultural enterprise based on those who win acceptance into its gates versus those who don’t. It should be noted that Soho House does not suffice with hollow utterances but works in creative ways to square the circle and create a new, broader mix of members. One of these ways is Soho Friends, a new initiative that offers friends of members a certain measure of accessibility to the club’s spaces and events, and the possibility of staying overnight at some of the Houses, for a reduced membership fee. Another innovation is Under 27, which offers lower membership fees to people up to the age of 27. These initiatives elicited positive reactions from those who saw in them an opportunity, and evoked far more negative reactions from those who viewed them as one more form of arrogance or an act comparable to closing ranks and, in general, as acts in which any connection between them and inclusion/diversity ranged from coincidental to nonexistent.

“Diversity and inclusion are issues that have always been important to Soho House,” Jones asserts. “It doesn’t matter to us where our members come from or how much money they make. We’ve always wanted to support screenwriters who are just starting out and artists who have not yet sold a single artwork, and these people sit in our Houses alongside the most successful artists or the writer who just published an international best seller or has a blockbuster TV series. What we aspire to is creating a space where everyone encourages everyone else to prosper, and that happens when there’s balance and a good mix of people.

“Diversity starts with the club’s members, but it’s also expressed in the makeup of the staff, the people we work with, our suppliers, the content we produce – whether we’re talking about the ‘face’ of this content or the entire chain that produces the final product.

“Without a doubt, a business that promotes diversity and inclusion is a better and smarter business – the discussions it holds are more interesting, the perspectives are more varied and all of this leads to better decision-making. I always say that when I, a 57-year-old white male, visit one of our Houses, I want to feel like the odd man out – and I feel this more and more frequently. It’s important for businesses, important for society, important for the arts,” Jones says.

But the most significant step taken by Soho House in recent years is the decision to grow. To grow unrestrainedly. And this doesn’t refer only to the number of Houses worldwide, which is rising exponentially. Soho House long ago ceased being only a chain of prestigious exclusive clubs; alongside the Houses scattered around the world, there’s Soho Works, a chain of shared work spaces located in London, New York and Los Angeles. There’s the successful program called Cities Without Houses that operates in urban centers that lack a physical House but where a Soho House community has been established and holds a cultural events in various venues. Tel Aviv, by the way, was the first city to take part in the program, which, led by cultural entrepreneur Eyal de Leeuw, enjoyed tremendous success. The format has been duplicated in more than 40 cities around the world, including Beijing, Copenhagen and Buenos Aires.

And then there’s the company’s brand, Soho Home, a chain combining brick-and-mortar shops with digital marketing of furniture and items for the home, where you can buy a bed identical to the one you slept in during your most recent stay at Soho House Berlin, or design an entire living room inspired by the library at Soho House New York, or simply order a lamp or a set of exclusive glasses in return for a generous handful of euros.

Although the company lost more than $230 million in 2020 due to the pandemic, and although it made its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in July 2021 (issued at a valuation of $2.8 billion, the share lost 10 percent of its value in the first day of trading and the move drew mixed reactions from the global financial media) – one gets the impression that Jones has no intention of stopping or even slowing down the pace.

Is the expansion something obvious in light of his many years of success, or is it more of a creative solution for a brand whose sheen has dimmed where it really matters and now, unavoidably, is seeking its path on the margins? “We do what our members want us to do,” Jones says. “They like us to open new Houses. And the reason they can buy furniture and glassware is because they asked for it.

“Some people think that just because you’ve gotten bigger, it means you’ve lost something. But in fact, the bigger we get, the more we gain. We gain a more interesting membership. We gain more interesting places to visit – and Tel Aviv is a perfect example of this,” Jones says.

“It’s been 26 years since we made the move from one House to two, and people continue to ask me, ‘What will be? You’re losing the essence and diluting the brand!’ But when I run into members – and that happens every minute every day – all they ask about is what’s coming up, what’s the next thing.”

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed


AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them