(Bloomberg) -- The Fitler Club, which opened last month in Philadelphia, is aiming to set itself apart in the exclusive social club space as a combination work-stay-play headquarters for A-listers.
Designed by Los Angeles architecture firm M-Rad, the club encompasses 136,000 square feet in the heart of Center City, including 34,000 square feet of workspace and office suites and 14 hotel rooms.
There’s also a top-of-the-line health and wellness facility, a 30,000-square-foot space that founder David Gutstadt describes as “a high-end Equinox” with classes and personalized training.
Then, after a tough workout, you can unwind at the 50-seat movie theater, play a few frames at its bowling alley, or refuel at one of the two restaurants or three bars by chef Marc Vetri.
“We’re seeing people come here, and they don’t leave,” Gutstadt says. “They can spend a whole day here. You can’t spend a whole day at your gym.”
The club currently has 1,500 members, and there’s a long waiting list, according to Gutstadt. All members undergo an intensive vetting process designed to select leaders, connectors, and influencers. He says 80 percent of the first 500 members were high-profile founders and chief executive officers.
It already has a celebrity-studded investor and member list, including FS Investments founder Michael Forman, NBA veteran David Robinson, and Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
“We’re creating a hub for all of the leaders and influential folks in the city,” Gutstadt says. “It’s a health-oriented place where people can get together and convene and create.”
Although social clubs that charge fees for access to lounges and restaurants are common in major cities, Fitler Club says it is the first to combine entertainment, fitness, wellness, and business under one roof.
Another differentiator is its tiered pricing policy.
According to the club’s website, members under 30 pay $225 each month. Those between 30 and 50 pay $300, and those over 50 pay $400. That’s a price difference of $1,200 a year just for hitting the half century mark.
While it’s common for social clubs to give discounts to younger members, who presumably have lower incomes, Fitler Club’s distinction between those over 50 and under is less so.
Gutstadt says the club isn’t charging more for being older, but instead giving a price break for being younger.
“We’re trying to tier it so we make it equally affordable for each age group,” he says. “It’s not different for any country club—there are country clubs with multiple tiers of membership.”
About 25 percent of the club’s members are over 50, according to Gutstadt.
In comparison, the Soho House in New York, a members-only club with a restaurant, spa, and swimming pool, gives a discount to those under 27—$1,650 annually for full access, compared with $3,300—but a representative said that everyone over 27 is charged the same rate. Prices may fluctuate based on competitors’ prices, but not by age.
This is also the case for the locations in the United Kingdom, where Soho House was founded in 1995, said Jessica Poppy Harris, executive assistant at the club in London. They charge £950 a year for those under 27 and £1,700 a year for those over.
Michelle Stanek, director of membership for the Norwood Club, which offers a social space on 14th Street for the arts community in New York, says the regular rate is $2,500 a year plus a one-time joining fee of $800. For those under 30, the rate is $1,500 a year plus a one-time $400 joining fee. When asked if the club charges more for people over 50, she said, “We definitely do not do that!”
Similarly, the Montauk Club of Brooklyn, a private social club dating back to the 19th century, gives a discount to those under 30 and those over 70—$385 each year compared with $605.
Some country clubs also give discounts for seniors, such as the Glenhardie Country Club north of Philadelphia. However, everyone under 70 is charged the same rate.
The Llanerch Country Club outside of Philadelphia has a reduced membership price for those between 21 and 35, and then a discount for those over 65 who have been members for more than 25 years, says membership director Kerry Margera.
Odette Williamson, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, says Fitler Club is unlikely to run into any legal troubles for the policy.
“Speaking broadly, the law protects older adults in certain situations such as seeking employment, getting credit, engaging with programs or activities receiving federal assistance,” she wrote in an email. “Some state laws also provide enhanced penalties for older adults and disabled individuals who have been defrauded. This type of tiered pricing is probably allowed. That said, a state like California may have a pretty broad statute that may be used to challenge this.”
In the end, the exclusive nature of Fitler Club means you might not even have to worry about paying dues. Preliminary membership is capped at 2,500, Gutstadt says.
“We have a list of people that we want to be part of the club,” he says. “We’re continuing to work through the list of leaders.”
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