London’s Groucho Club chooses Yorkshire manor for first outpost

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The Groucho Club — a favoured hang-out for British celebrities, artists and media personalities — is setting up its first venue outside London in the West Yorkshire countryside, as part of its new owner’s expansion plans.

Instead of copying rival members’ club Soho House and pushing into the US and other international locations, the Groucho said on Thursday that it plans to launch its second venue in Bretton Hall — a 300-year-old, Grade II-listed manor house located in the grounds of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near the northern England town of Wakefield.

The expansion is part of plans to revitalise the 39-year-old Soho members’ club by appealing to younger people. Artfarm — a hospitality company founded by Iwan and Manuela Wirth, the couple behind the Hauser & Wirth gallery — bought the Groucho in 2022 for £40mn, promising to reinvigorate it and possibly expand overseas.

Ewan Venters, chief executive of Artfarm, said the new venue, which is scheduled to open in 2026, was “possibly the most exciting venture” the Groucho had undertaken since it opened in central London in 1985. The original club, which has around 5,000 members, has been a chosen hang-out spot of celebrities including actor Stephen Fry, model Kate Moss and artist Damien Hirst.

The Groucho — which charges London members a £1,500 annual fee plus a £550 joining fee as well as offering discounted rates for younger members, according to figures seen by the Financial Times — generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of £1mn in 2022 on revenues of £7.9mn, according to the latest company accounts.

The club did not immediately respond to a request seeking clarity on what it will charge members of the Groucho Bretton.

The surprising move to the West Yorkshire countryside is nevertheless in keeping with Hauser & Wirth’s expansion, which took the contemporary art gallery from its first location in Zurich to London and New York. It then established an outpost in 2014 in a cluster of renovated farm buildings in the rural English town of Bruton. The launch was a boon to property prices across the local Somerset area.

Denise Jeffery, the Labour party leader of Wakefield council, said she was pleased Bretton Hall “will be entering a dynamic new phase of its history, enhancing our area’s reputation as a cultural centre”. Local property developer Rushbond, which also owns the Leeds Corn Exchange shopping mall, will collaborate on the development.

Expansion drives have proven tricky for other members’ clubs, looking to strike a balance between maintaining exclusivity and generating extra revenues. Soho House, whose first venue is just 60 yards from the Groucho, was last month criticised by a short seller who claimed that the “rapid expansion of Soho House’s membership base and global footprint raises worries about the potential dilution of the exclusive experience”. The report hit the New York-listed group’s share price.

The Groucho Bretton will also have 40 hotel rooms accessible to non-members. Soho House also plans to open its first venue in the north of England later this year in Manchester.

Artfarm operates several venues in London’s Mayfair, several countryside hotels and pubs, and a restaurant in Los Angeles.


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