Groucho or not Groucho, That is The Question.

Earlier in the year RL’s Glasgow store had a relaunch party after an substantial refurbishment. The after-show was held at Glasgow’s prestigious One Devonshire Gardens, which had been transformed for the occasion by Ralph’s interior design team. At the party I was accosted (twice) by a pleasant enough chap who urged me to join his Private Members Club. I declined on the Marxist (Groucho, not Karl) principal that I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.

Recently the present Mrs. Cyclo and I were invited to the Ralph Lauren launch nights for Fall 2009. On both occasions there was a do in the shop where you could have a bit of a try on followed by an after show at a nearby private members club. All very nice, except we never attended the after show as we were both famished. We attended instead upon the nearest Bistro for a bit of a nosebag.

Tonight we’ve been invited to a dinner by Mulberry, the luxury handbag people, coincidentally at the same private members club... what price a BIG membership drive? I’m guessing although the management and staff of these establishments are receiving free membership I’m not going to.
29 Royal Exchange Square

This particular club is called 29. It is not the first attempt at the venture. Glasgow had three private clubs that I knew of as a boy, The Carrick (which sank in about 1987- it was on a boat, Carrick, which was sister ship of Cutty Sark’s ) the old established Royal Scottish Automobile Club, in Blythswood Square which went out of business in 2002 and the Western, which is still open and faces 29 across Royal Exchange Square. In more recent times, the Corinthian in Ingram Street, closed its private members' club in 2003 and Groucho St Judes in Bath Street went the way of all flesh two years ago, it’s private members club never getting off the ground (although the Corinthian itself still operates as a nightclub). The Hallion Club opened in Glasgow in 2005 and tried to attract private members from Scotland's celebrity market, with the promise of exclusivity, their most high profile member reputedly being the actor Billy Boyd. The limited company which ran the club put the business into liquidation in 2007, only six months after Edinburgh's Hallion Club, which had no direct connection, was sold off amid rumours of financial difficulties. Walter Barratt, the geezer behind the Hallion was also the owner of Groucho St Judes. 29 is owned by James Mortimer who previously owned Victoria’s, the first Glasgow Superclub. Mortimer also owns Glasgow’s restaurant deluxe, Rogano to which 29 is adjacent (in fact he owns the block, which houses several other Mortimer enterprises, including a nightclub and mid price eatery). Presumably he knows what he’s about and if all else fails he’ll open the place as a standard if up market nightspot.

These ventures never work in a town like Glasgow, the target market is too small. The population of footballers and their wives tend to gravitate to the leafy suburbs of Thorntonhall and Bothwell and there they stay. Actors and musicians from Glasgow bugger off south as soon as the PRS cheques or film roles start coming in. Ordinary folks signing up for membership of so called exclusive clubs then find themselves rubbing shoulders not with the footballing, star of film and screen Beau Monde that they had envisaged but rather the hoi polloi they themselves comprise. Imagine your disappointment having stumped up your subs to find that far from being the exclusive perfumed garden of your dreams, the bar is stacked four deep with freeloading businessmen with no intention of signing anything and the only other geezer that’s actually signed up is a slobbering oik in an ill fitting Slater’s suit circa 1986 with whom you would not want to share an elevator let alone the long watches of the martini drenched night. You can easily see these places thriving (as the Groucho has, in London) in any city where there’s a pool of affluent young people, networking heavy-petting style and bumping Bluetooth devices off each other but most of Glasgow society is closer to effluent than affluent. Any business venture that depends for its clientele almost exclusively on the small player pool of the Scottish Professional Football League’s not gonna last, even one that charges an astonishing £40 for a surf’n’ turf (extra for chips) and sells what they claim to be “Scotland’s Most Expensive Cocktail” (how quaint!)

I’ll report back after tonights party.