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Soho House Invites Disgruntled Neighbors to Tour New LES Space

By Serena Solomon | March 15, 2013 6:21pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — The exclusive Soho House is opening the doors of its planned Lower East Side location to nearby residents — including an anti-nightlife group that has spoken out against the plan.

LES Dwellers, which documents and protests the often drunken and disorderly atmosphere in the neighborhood, has already voiced it disapproval of the membership-only club's intent to open, and serve alcohol, at 139 Ludlow St.

The club recently sent a letter to residents near the proposed spot, announcing open house tours that will take place on Saturday and Sunday for the next three weeekends.

"My first thought was, how ironic, the public is being allowed to tour a place that they will not normally have access to — be it by choice, circumstance, or by not meeting the Soho House threshold for 'individuals from the creative arts,'" said Diem Boyd, 41, who estimates that she lives about 200 feet from the proposed location.

Boyd spoke on behalf of LES Dwellers, which was formed in September 2012 by a volunteer group of Lower East Side residents who mostly live in the area known as "Hell's Square" — between Delancey and East Houston streets and Essex and Allen streets — named for its over-saturation of nightlife venues.

Soho House — which started in London's SoHo area and has numerous clubs around the world geared toward a creative clientele — is looking to expand on its only other New York City venue, in the Meatpacking District, which has a hotel, bar, restaurant and rooftop pool.

Starting Saturday, the tours will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekend day for three weeks, according to the letter. Soho House staff will also be on hand to answer questions, with a Soho House spokeswoman referring to the letter recipients as all "potential members."

She added that the original letters will be translated into Chinese and Spanish for non-English-speaking residents at the tour.

In its letter, first reported on The Lo-Down, the Soho House stated that rather than exclusivity, it "thinks instead of how to be inclusive," offering a membership for $1,800 per year.

The club also stated that membership is for "individuals linked solely to the creative arts," which its webiste defines as people in the film, media and creative industries.

Boyd said numerous LES Dwellers members intend to take Soho House up on the tour offer, but remained cautious as to the company's goal. 

“I personally worry the tour will feel more like a Soho House press junket and allow them to tick the 'Did you reach out the community box,'" Boyd said.

Soho House's planned Lower East Side location appeared on the Community Board 3 liquor license committee's agenda this month, but it was later scratched. Community outreach can help a liquor license applicant gain community board support.

Because the club's proposed location is in a zone that the State Liquor Authority has deemed saturated with bars, Soho House must prove it brings a public benefit to the area to secure its license.

LES Dwellers has previously posted anti-Soho House fliers around the neighborhood in protest of the club's planned opening.