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London's private members' clubs


The gateleaper: how to get in to London's private members' clubs

The capital’s private members’ clubs are bastions of privilege where big deals are made and careers launched, with strictly no access for plebs. Until now. We have the secret guide to social mobility.

London's private members' clubs

Give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, take away his club membership and he might die. The biggest challenge facing social climbers today is entering an array of society strongholds called private members’ clubs. These upper-crust citadels have become London’s number one blue-blood obsession. They are kept and nourished like other tourist attractions, though tourists can’t get in, or hardly anyone else.

To get a membership one must be vetted by the previous class of occupiers and transfer a joining fee of £2,000 and an annual subscription fee of £1,500 (Dover Street Arts Club prices). But there’s no point in being a member of just one club — you want to be admitted to all of them. Unlike swanky parties, where it’s easy to bluff the guest list by mentioning someone else’s name from Twitter, members’ clubs require a membership card. And a dress code. Plus a willingness to constantly nod and bow.

With the cost of living crisis and youth unemployment on the rise, creeping into members’ clubs is practically the only way for youngsters to get ahead in life, quickly, without fees. I’ve tried all these methods with unlimited success.

1. The Royal Automobile Club

89 Pall Mall, SW1, founded 1897

The only club with a huge swimming pool, spa, Turkish bath, post office and florist. Breeze in with confidence, in a three-piece suit (no denim, no sneakers), walk straight down to the changing room. If you manage to put on your swimming trunks swiftly, no one will suspect you aren’t a member. In this club they do not bother asking who you are at the door. They trust non-members won’t show up since they can’t buy food.

To bypass this hurdle politely tell the waiters that your member friend is playing squash downstairs. Then beg for a White Russian while waiting for “a wedding” that hasn’t started. Climb up to the library and grab Car (magazine) by the fireplace. There is plenty of headed paper to write letters on. If you stumble upon a member (make sure he’s not another blagger) try not to discuss horse racing, only motor racing. Mention how Scarlett Johansson swam in the club’s pool in the film Scoop (2006).

Nimrod Kamer
Nimrod at the RAC pool (Picture: Daniel Hambury)

2. The Arts Club

40 Dover Street, W1, founded 1863

The only club with a dapper dancefloor. Jay Electronica, Gwyneth Paltrow and architect David Chipperfield’s son Gabriel are members. Slipping in is tricky. Best arrive on a Saturday night when there’s commotion at the door, turn around and start walking in backwards, avoiding eye contact with the hostess.

Also, arrive coatless — leave your coat at the Ritz cloakroom nearby and enter as if you’ve just been out for a fag. Inside, order booze and food freely (they sell to anyone). An Old-Fashioned at the restaurant costs half as much as it does on the dancefloor. Wave more friends in as if you belong there. When asked if you’re a member, reply “How else did I get in?”.

During daytime hours use a known member’s name and say they haven’t arrived yet. Hand the receptionist a mobile phone on which your friend is saying “I’ll be there in 20 minutes”.

3. The Athenaeum

107 Pall Mall, SW1, founded 1824

The only club with physicist Michael Faraday’s iron-tyred wheelchair on the main bedroom landing. To get in, put on an orange hi-vis jacket over your suit. Say you’re there to inspect some exterior paintwork on the first-floor terrace, which looks dirty and unkempt when looked at from the Institute of Directors opposite.

Have a tour with the manager and point out the defective area. In the best case they will let you stay for tea. If they leave you alone remove the hi-vis jacket and start reading a financial paper. If asked, say you’re a relative of late member Cecil Rhodes (Athenaeum membership is inherited).

4. The Groucho Club

45 Dean Street, W1, founded 1985

The only worthwhile blag in Soho, as Soho House is becoming too accessible. Blow in by telling them you were in the club last night and left an open bar tab. Five hundred quid. You wish to settle it. Declare your tab was in the bar upstairs — you were there with Poppy Delevingne and Caroline Flack. As they desperately try to find the bill, order a negroni sour and open a new tab, with a real debit card. They will apologise for not finding any record of last night. Wave £500 in cash and slam it on the bar, placing your beverage on top of it. When asked to leave say you can’t because you have an open tab.

The following day return and ask to pay for the four negronis you had yesterday, showing them your open tab card. They must believe it, because it’s real. Pay your bill, take back your Visa card, just before you do that order some tonic water with a different debit card, while leaving it open. Return the following day to close it. Ipso facto, an open tab at the Groucho is the same as a membership.

5. Home House

19, 20, 21 Portman Square, W1, founded 1998

The only club to get married in. Beautiful garden. Duncan Bannatyne and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales are members. Wales just happens to be on Foursquare (social network) so his whereabouts are known.

Home House has a policy of not asking members to leave their friends’ name at the door. Say you’re meeting a person whom you know is in. Check Instagram as well, as Coronation Street’s Elizabeth Tan might tag herself at the drawing room. Once inside leave a piece of clothing in the cloakroom and go home. The cloakroom ticket will be used to enter next time to “collect” your item. Never collect it.

At night, exit via number 21, the Vestibule Bar, like any other drunken member. Main reception should never see you leave. As you return insist you’re already in, even though you’re standing at reception, since there’s no record you ever left.

Nimrod Kamer is a satirist and professional prankster. Twitter@nnimrodd

Link to the oirginal article