Silicon Valley's new money imitates its urban center: awkward, underdeveloped, and hoping so very badly to be noticed. So it's no mistake that the buzziest addition to the San Francisco social scene is The Battery, a private clubhouse that apes so much that's lame and gauche about Manhattan.
The Battery, opening on October 25th, is a sort of Twee Hades for money, risen from the frame of a derelict marble factory. It's also a scheme by Michael Birch to get all the people you'd read about in this article in one room. Birch, the perfect man to open a private social club, certainly knows a little something about bringing people together: he sold his social networking site Bebo to AOL $850 million, where it died. After cooling his heels for several years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Birch is ready for another project:
"We're fans of the village pub, where everyone knows everyone," Michael said during a hard-hat tour in August. "A private club can be the city's replacement for the village pub, where you do, over time, get to know everyone and have a sense of emotional belonging."
Except anyone can walk into a "village pub," whereas The Battery can only be accessed by its members, via a "hidden door," and demands $2,400 in annual dues. The Chronicle says this isn't a contradiction, just Valley magic at work:
While "private social club" connotes money, insularity and elitism to some, these social media millionaires want their establishment to reflect Silicon Valley-style meritocracy. They see it as an egalitarian watering hole where they want diversity, not homogeneity, to rule.
The meritocracy of The Battery will function just about as much as any other Silicon Valley faux-meritocracy:
Prospective members must be nominated by an existing member, and a membership committee, whose composition and criteria are confidential, decides who will be accepted.
Obnoxious pixel cronyism in gilded microcosm—The Battery will be a monument to everything irritating about the moment. A membership of the rich and tech-ambitious. A gaudy interior (Versaille by way of Fab.com) by Ken Fulk, whose job it is to spend money for people who don't know how. And of course, all the over-the-top amenities befitting startup parvenu royalty:
The five-level, 58,000-square-foot club at 717 Battery St. contains a high-end restaurant, four bars, a wine cellar, a library, meeting rooms, a gym and spa, an outdoor garden and 14 hotel rooms, including a penthouse suite with views of the Transamerica Pyramid and the Bay Bridge. A dramatic glass elevator and glass railing on an imposing steel and glass staircase to the lower level are among the design highlights.
But anyone who's spent a few unfortunate nights with a banker friend in New York (or beyond) will see that this is a duplication of Manhattan's revolting, sticky SoHo House, a chain of similar "social clubs" that aim for modern salons but got murderers and hedge funders instead. New York's SoHo House is a way of saying I have disposable income that's two or three levels above just jamming your credit card in someone's mouth. It'll absolutely kill in the Valley, where you aren't expected to dress well, and there are only so many places to drive a Tesla.