Six years after opening its first Los Angeles outpost known for killer views atop a Sunset Strip high-rise, the British private membership club Soho House is soft-opening its second local branch on Friday evening along the Carbon Beach oceanfront with picture-postcard vistas from its terraces of the Malibu Pier and the legendary First Point surf break beyond it. The minimalist-contemporary structure, situated between Nobu and the Malibu Beach Inn until recently owned by David Geffen, previously housed fellow billionaire Larry Ellison’s short-lived Italian restaurant, Nikita, which was named after his girlfriend Nikita Kahn.
“We’ve had our eye on this property even before Nikita,” says Soho House founder Nick Jones. “When the opportunity arose, it was a no-brainer.”
For the first time, the Ron Burkle-backed global club network, which has 17 properties serving cosmopolitan elites everywhere from Istanbul to Berlin, will not automatically be allowing those members who’ve opted to pay a premium to have access to any property in its collection the ability to visit this one. The new policy — which requires existing L.A. members to apply for membership for this particular club by proving the legitimacy of their connection to Malibu — points to the acute deference Soho House is showing to the often-insular community’s notorious localism, that same occasionally aggressive tribal and territorial instinct that can evince itself in intimidation tactics when, say, outsiders dare to ride preferred waves along the coast.
“We respect the communities that we go to, and everyone in Malibu was really passionate about keeping this club within the fabric of what the city is,” Soho House membership director Samantha Stone explains. “So members have the opportunity to apply and explain why they want to access Malibu — and to see if it’s for the right reasons. Maybe you live there, or you have a house there, or you grew up there, or you surf there, or you are a photographer who shoots there. There are various justifications. That was the best course of action to keep it really aligned with what Malibu believes in.”
A membership committee comprised of, yes, locals is already making these decisions. Soho House declined to name them.
Officially known as The Little Beach House Malibu, the 10,000-square-foot property, leased from the Mani Brothers real estate firm whose assets also include the office tower where Soho House’s West Hollywood penthouse club is located, includes 200 feet of beach frontage. Residential neighbors along Carbon Beach, which is nicknamed Billionaire’s Beach, include Ellison, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Eli Broad, Haim Saban, Arnon Milchan and Leslie Moonves.
While the space retains the teak wood patio and exteriors of the Nikita era, Soho House’s longtime design director, Vicky Charles, has imbued it with a less severe, far more laid-back look inside. Think woven chairs and antique hemp rugs.
Photo: David Burk Photography
Planned member programming includes hiking through the vineyards of Saddlerock Ranch, foraging at Point Dume and a discussion about solar energy and “postmodern environmentalism” with a sustainable energy consultant.
Sleepy Malibu, whose limited nightlife runs to stalwarts like Moonshadows (and last saw a proper dive a full decade ago when the Dume Room closed), will have a new witching-hour rendezvous. The club remains open until 11 p.m. every day except Friday and Saturday, when it will close at 2 a.m.
Until now, Malibu has been a notably quiet members-only scene. The low-key, decidedly less hip La Costa Beach Club is a mile and a half east, while the old-school Jonathan Club and Bel-Air Bay Club reside far south of the city line.
Soho House currently has one additional regional club in development, an 80,000-square-foot warehouse in the burgeoning downtown L.A. Arts District. Another property, Ludlow House, bowed May 23 on New York City’s Lower East Side.
Photo: David Burk Photography