24 October 2018
A European-themed ambience permeates Kee Club in Central. Photo: Kee Club
A European-themed ambience permeates Kee Club in Central. Photo: Kee Club

Hong Kong private club joins snooty company

For Hong Kong’s hoi polloi, whose idea of a night out is a few rounds of beer at the nearest 7-11 store or dinner at dai pai dong, news that CNN has included Kee Club in Central on its list of the world’s 10 most exclusive private membership clubs will hardly strike a chord.

But there it is. If anything, it just goes to show that Hong Kong is indeed Asia’s world city. And in a place where income disparity is growing wider, it can serve as an aspirational object, says CNN. 

Located at 32 Wellington Street in Central, Kee Club is reeking with snootiness and exclusivity.

To become a member, you must know someone who already is to recommend you. Then you have to pay HK$20,000 (US$2,579) as annual membership fee. It’s HK$50,000 if you want to be a lifetime member.

Once in, you get access to exclusive events and hobnob with the well-heeled set, including celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Sting, Michael Jordan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mick Jagger and Chow Yun Fat.

But what’s the point of it all?

Well, the obvious attraction is that members get a sense of belonging to an elite company where money, prestige and influence are the common denominators.

“Most [private clubs] maintain their exclusiveness through an application process that begins with recommendations by at least two current members followed by an approval by the club’s committee,” Vincent Lai, managing director of concierge service Quintessentially Lifestyle, Greater China, tells CNN.

“Those who are invited fulfill certain requirements, they usually have economic capital but most importantly they carry a lot of social clout,” he adds.

Established in 2001 by Hong Kong-based Austrian Christian Rhomberg and wife Maria, Kee Club seeks to encourage a unique lifestyle for its members by creating a relaxed, intimate environment for meeting like-minded people, partying, fine dining or even closing an elusive business deal.

Also on the CNN list are three from London: The Hurlingham Club, Blacks and The Club at The Ivy. From other ritzy parts of the globe are Core in New York, Cercle de Lorraine in Brussels, Silencio in Paris, The Clubhouse in Buenos Aires, Capital Club in Dubai, and Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo.

And as they say, if you have to ask how much is the membership fee in these joints, chances are you can’t afford it.

The American humorist Groucho Marx was said to have said: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

For the toiling masses, though, they won’t join a club that wouldn’t have them as members. It’s as simple as that. 

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