Five of the best private members clubs in Singapore, where diversity is the buzzword
- Forget golf and barbecues at the country club, or socialising with people from your profession – a new breed of private clubs attracts diverse memberships
- Shared interests and lifestyles is what brings businessmen, professionals and entrepreneurs together behind closed doors for drinks, dinner and deal-making
Private members clubs in Singapore have come a long way since the country clubs of the 1980s, where the rich went to socialise and play golf and family members could enjoy the facilities, and the social clubs of the ’90s for members of an industry or trade.
“Both types of clubs conjure up very homogeneous environments,” says Wee Teng Wen, co-founder of Straits Clan, a members club that opened in 2018 in Singapore’s historic Chinatown district, “not necessarily composed of like-minded people, but literally those from the same background and social status.”
Junny Lee, founder of members-only business club Mark by The Work Project, says: “Today there is a new breed of clubs curated for the individual rather than the family, and catering to a more diverse set of lifestyle or professional interests.”
For Leslie Lim, co-founder of Cicil, a start-up focused on helping underserved Indonesian university students access financial support, joining private members club 1880 has been a worthwhile investment. “I have access to a beautiful space to wine, dine, work and host friends,” he says. “Being a part of 1880, I get the opportunity to interact with very diverse and interesting members regularly, and it allows me to expand my social circle,” the 31-year-old says.
The founder of 1880, Marc Nicholson, says one reason members clubs in Singapore are special is the range of people the city attracts. “Whether it’s the tech sector, finance, venture capital, education, medical, creative, fitness or any other community you explore, you’ll find brilliant minds, daring entrepreneurs and wonderful people trying to bend history in their direction. That's just exciting,” he says. “The club scene is simply the vehicle for these misfits to flourish.”
From establishments with a rich history to recent arrivals, these are some of the Lion City’s best private members clubs.
1. Straits Clan
Conceived by Singaporean hospitality firm The Lo & Behold Group, Straits Clan was formed in 2018. Sitting tall on Bukit Pasoh Road, known for housing multiple clan associations in the 19th century (many of which are still there), the club occupies four storeys of an art deco, pre-war conservation building built in 1928.
For 11 years the property was the New Majestic Hotel, and today it still resembles an inviting upscale boutique hotel with its rattan furniture, geometric patterned tiles and pastel hues.
As you move up from floor to floor, the colours get warmer and the tile patterns change, creating a clear division between the casual, formal, private and public spaces. There is a Tropicana-themed private entertainment area that elevates a dingy ’70s karaoke lounge into a snazzy space with sleek metallic finishing, plush seating, marbled cocktail tables and a pole dancing platform.
“Our membership base is a diverse community of individuals united by curiosity, creative energy and entrepreneurial zeal, rather than profession, geography or economics,” says the co-founder Wee.
Membership rates are lowered for those under the age of 30, as well as for those who are from the non-profit sector. A standard membership is S$4,500 (US$3,265), with monthly fees of S$198.
31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089845; straitsclan.com
2. Mark by The Work Project
Launched in February 2019, Mark caters to high-level executives and C-suite (chief executive level) members of The Work Project co-working spaces and offices. The bar is for mingling, but the rest of the space is separated into nooks. where members can host business partners or discuss proposals in peace.
With plush furnishings, dim lighting and elegant silverware on tables, it resembles a luxurious home away from home for members.
“We deliver an experience that is highly personalised, including a bar trolley service and beverage sourcing programme, where we source rare wine and spirit products for our members,” says Lee, the founder.
Membership is open to C-suite customers of The Work Project and tenants of real estate group CapitaLand by invitation, without any additional fee.
Capital Tower, #20-02, 168 Robinson Road, Singapore 068912; theworkproject.com
Opened in 2017 and spanning more than 2,000 square metres (21,500 square feet), 1880 is an ode to the era in which Robertson Quay – the club’s location – was built. Entering the club involves an escalator ride through a glistening tunnel covered in green-tinted mirrors, aptly named The Kaleidoscope.
The decor by Timothy Oulton is a blend of quirky industrial design, wood and minerals. A 25 million-year-old rose quartz crystal – weighing 1.5 tonnes – greets guests at reception. Further in, you’ll find steampunk-inspired phone booths and a bar made out of 360 vintage teapots.
In the same vein as the out-of-this-world decor, members enjoy experiences money can’t buy. “For instance, we took 90 members and their immediate family to meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in March 2019,” says Nicholson, the founder.
To be part of this elite group, you’re either invited to join or you can write to apply; members pay a one-time joining fee of S$5,000 and monthly fees at S$180. Additional perks include access to the Devonshire Club in London and the Capital Club Dubai.
1 Nanson Road, Singapore 238909; 1880.com.sg
4. Goh Loo Club
Founded in 1905 by Sun Shiding and Chen Zhuoran, consular representatives in Singapore of the Qing dynasty Chinese government, the 114-year old Goh Loo club was set up as a gathering place for the Chinese community in Singapore. Prominent Singaporeans such as Lim Boon Keng (physician and social activist) and Lee Kong Chian (founder of Lee Foundation) were members of the club in the 1930s.
After a 16-month renovation in 2016 costing S$3.8 million, the 998 square metre, three-storey shophouse is today a fusion of modern and old-school design elements.
Outside, a peeling mural depicts the building’s past – the faces of the club’s early members engaged in conversation.
Inside, wood-framed louvre windows, brick walls and original colonial-style columns are a nod to the club’s heritage. Guests can play mahjong on original three-legged mahjong tables used by generations of members past.
To appeal to a younger crowd, several modern features have been added, including airy multipurpose spaces that are used to host events.
Membership here is capped at 250 people, with a joining fee of S$1,000.
72 Club Street, Singapore 069444
5. Tower Club
Soaring above Singapore’s central business district, Tower Club opened in 1997. The palatial columns and gilded accents suggest a club designed for the wealthy to wheel and deal in luxury.
Dim sum are served on Versace dinnerware at the in-house restaurant, Ba Xian, and there is a cigar and whisky room. There is an option to rent a private wine locker, where you can store up to 12 bottles.
Tower Club membership gives access to more than 200 exclusive private clubs around the world. With five guest passes each year, privileges can also be extended to a member’s family, friends and colleagues.
Membership at the Tower Club is by invitation only.