Should You Join One of Chicago’s Most Sought-After Members-Only Clubs?

Soho House Chicago

Updated April 19, 2018.

Thinking of joining one of Chicago’s many exclusive members-only clubs? Whether for business or pleasure, most offer a plethora of benefits. For help deciding which elite club is right for you, we’ve highlighted some of our favorites.

Soho House Chicago

Soho House Chicago Bar
Photo by Wendy Altschuler.

Maybe you’re not an artist per se, but if you appreciate cool and trendy spaces, luxurious lounges to hang out in with friends and Instagram-worthy craft cocktails, this club tailored toward creative types may be up your alley. The swanky brick warehouse-like building houses The Allis (a perfect hot spot for Afternoon Tea or bites and sips), Chicken Shop, and the newly opened Fox Bar, all open to the public, but membership is required for access to the lavish private spaces: fashionable bars, restaurants, gym and boxing ring, spa, screening room and rooftop swimming pool. Connect with other like-minded souls through one of five types of membership: Local House – $2,000 per year (grants access to all club spaces and facilities plus full access to Soho House Toronto), Every House – $2,800 per year (access to Houses in Chicago, the UK, Berlin, Istanbul, New York, West Hollywood, Miami and Toronto), Under 27 Local House – $1,000 per year, Under 27 Every House – $1,400 per year, and Child Membership. To be considered for membership, applicants must submit a headshot, referrals from two existing members and proper identification. Once accepted, a one-time registration fee of $300 is required.

The Cliff Dwellers

If you’re an art aficionado or a professional in the art space, this artists’ haven might be the club for you. The lakefront facilities, located on the 22nd floor penthouse at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, overlook Millennium Park and, aptly, the Art Institute of Chicago. This private, nonprofit club provides opportunities for art enthusiasts, art supporters and artists to convene and engage in a social environment. The Cliff Dwellers are also involved in many amazing philanthropic endeavors including an arts foundation that donates grants to artists’ programs like Dance Chicago, Merit School of Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Chicago Artists Coalition. The club has an Artist-in-Residence program to assist young local artists and performers in a one-year program that allows, among other benefits, free membership. Membership is granted to anyone over age 25, however, new members require a sponsor and co-sponsor. For $150, members can enjoy privileges for three months.

The Standard Club

The Standard Club
Photo courtesy of The Standard Club.

This oldie but goodie has been inspiring business and community leaders since 1869. The esteemed, private, city club is aimed at connecting those with shared charitable, social and civic interests through fitness, social activities, dining events, golf privileges and access to guest rooms. Three existing club members must sponsor candidates and the price is furnished upon request.

East Bank Club

Ideal for fitness buffs, the East Bank Club in Chicago’s River North neighborhood has it all: pro shop, spa, children’s activity center, salon, business center, dry cleaners, rehearsal space, physical therapy and even a car wash. In addition to a full state-of-the-art workout facility with racquet sports and four indoor and outdoor pools, the East Bank Club also organizes social events including live music, a summer deck party and wine-tasting events. Members can network at the onsite restaurant or bar as well. Membership involves a $250–$700 initiation fee plus $150–$330 monthly dues.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization

If you’re an entrepreneur with an eye on business growth, individual development and community engagement, this large and ever-growing global peer-to-peer system of more than 12,000 business owners in 54 different countries may be the association for you. To be granted membership, applicants must be an owner, founder or majority stakeholder of a company that earned at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. Fees are $2,150 for global dues and a one-time $2,200 admission fee.

The Chicago Club

A business/social hybrid with a strict dress code, The Chicago Club offers membership by invitation only, but once granted, members receive access to space for private board meetings, a superb rooftop terrace, fitness center and a luxurious venue for private events. The stunning club has a full-service, full-time catering staff to customize events.

University Club of Chicago

This exclusive club requires a university or college degree from a four-year institution, a nomination form completed by an existing member and three letters of recommendation from existing members for admission. However, upon admittance, members are given the chance to join special interest societies that offer activities focused on everything from photography to sailing to beer. In addition to access to top-of-the-line facilities, members of the UCC also gain entrance to the club’s nationally renowned squash program.

Union League of Chicago

Housed in a 23-story clubhouse on Jackson Boulevard, this organization boasts an impressive membership largely made up of investors, financiers, attorneys, physicians, insurers and politicians. Perfect for those who want to socialize and network, this club offers access to a variety of activities and facilities. It also provides a number of family-friendly events, such as a family halloween party, a children’s holiday party, a Saturday family program, a father-daughter dance, a children’s summer camp, and so much more. Find more information about membership here and pricing details here.

The Arts Club of Chicago

Another option for those who are in the art field or who have a deep appreciation for the arts is The Arts Club of Chicago. The organization offers six different classes of membership: Visual, Performing & Literary Artist, Curator & Academic, Arts Professional, Architect, Designer & Applied Artist and Patron. In addition to the opportunity to network and socialize with art lovers, the club also offers exclusive events such as gallery exhibitions, live critiques and panel discussions. Dues rates and initiation fees vary by class of membership, and applications require one letter of recommendation and three signatures from members of the club in good standing.

Other clubs that are tops for networking:

Chicago is home to numerous other elite business clubs that provide excellent networking opportunities and access to industry events. Some are very selective and cost a pretty penny — membership at the American Club Association in Elk Grove Village, for example, is by invitation only and subject to approval by all existing members. Once in, though, members have access to training, advising, education, marketing and social benefits.

Other business clubs that aren’t as difficult to get in to include The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Chicago Loop Alliance and the City Club of Chicago, which are open to all.