Groucho Club seeks site for media hotel

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The Independent Online
THE GROUCHO Club in Soho, home-from-home for the media and entertainment cognoscenti, is to open a hotel in central London.

A site in one of the capital's more fashionable districts is being sought for the hotel, which will have up to 90 bedrooms with prices starting at around pounds 130 per night.

Tony MacKintosh, the executive chairman of the Groucho Club, is willing to pay around pounds 4m for the site alone. He said he had considered locations from bohemian Clerkenwell near central London to up-and-coming Queen's Park in the north-west, but had not found the right spot yet.

Julian Amery, the development manager of the Groucho Hotel project, has been criss-crossing London on his Vespa motor-scooter, scouting locations. He said the vision was to create, "a clubby London hotel with a big bar". Those who have dreamed of infiltrating the Groucho's Dean Street clique will at last be able to say they had a drink at "the Groucho".

The club is so famous that, in Nineties marketing-speak, the Groucho has become a brand in its own right. Mr MacKintosh said the club already offered 14 "snug" bedrooms at its Soho premises for members' use and had a well-run restaurant, making the move into the hotel business in a city with a shortage of hotel rooms a natural progression.

The Groucho Hotel would join a growing number of designer-label hotels in London, such as the Hempel and No 1 Aldwych, which are small in size but big on style.

The Groucho Club, named in memory of Groucho Marx, who joked that he would not want to belong to a club that would accept him as a member, was founded 14 years ago, reputedly as an alternative to the fuddy-duddy Garrick Club that still refuses to allow women to join.

Despite being the watering hole of liberal professionals, the Groucho Club soon became very exclusive, charging its members more than pounds 400 per year. There are 2,000 names on its waiting list and it makes an annual profit of pounds 500,000.

Since the club opened, many have sought to emulate its success, including the Soho House, Blacks, the Cobden Club and Teatro, but the Groucho remains the epicentre for media players. Behind its anonymous doors in Dean Street they do deals, network with a vengeance and blow air kisses across dimly lit rooms.

Here, if you are allowed in, you can encounter film directors, novelists and literary agents, publishers, established actors and journalists in various states of inebriation.

In its big sofas and deep armchairs, Robbie Coltrane might hold court with a bevy of appreciative drones, bad boy actor Keith Allen might be spotted skulking at the bar, or Beryl Bainbridge could challenge Gary Lineker to a drinking competition. In the Groucho you can bump into Dawn French, trip over Joanna Lumley or duck a pool cue swung by Liam Gallagher.

Tales of members banging massive egos against gargantuan self-regard or becoming tired and emotional after too much alcohol are dutifully recorded in gossip columns.

A couple of hacks are always in the club ready to record an outrageous scene and the constant stream of publicity has turned the Groucho into the most famous private club in the country.

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