The members-only social club Soho House unveils its latest venue today, in Chicago. While the brand, which originated in London and has other American locations in New York, Miami Beach and West Hollywood, is defined by exclusive, refined luxury, the Windy City edition has a rough-and-tumble element that pays tribute to Chicago’s pugilistic roots: a custom on-site boxing ring.
The storied Chicago tanners at Horween Leather Company are still putting final touches on the ring, which is situated in the middle of an otherwise ordinary gym, by wrapping custom vegetable-tanned leather with a slightly waxed surface around the ropes and guards that line the perimeter. Even the design was done locally, with the help of Rick Fornuto, who won the 1971 Chicago Golden Gloves and now trains amateur boxers on the city’s South Side. He took Soho House’s design director, Vicky Charles, to old-school boxing rings in the area for inspiration.
Soon, Fornuto will be advising on boxing programs and refereed matches for the site’s members, who will probably not count Soho House’s founder and chief executive officer, Nick Jones, among them. “I don’t think I’ve put on a pair of boxing gloves since I was about 7, at school, but I do love boxing, says Jones, Soho House’s founder and chief executive officer. He adds that there is a renewed global interest in the sport. “Only a month ago, a boxing match sold out Wembley Stadium. There were 80,000 people — there’s a real appetite for it.”
The boxing ring isn’t the only thing that distinguishes the latest incarnation of the club. Soho House Chicago is, for the first time, opening its doors to the community — at least partially. The general public can patronize the lobby of the sprawling space (it’s the largest Soho House to date) to order coffee, juice and light meals and hang out under Parisian chandeliers and art by Damien Hirst. Other unrestricted locations in the building include the Allis lounge and cafe, named after the family who once owned the local machine belt factory, the Pizza East and Chicken Shop restaurants, and the Cowshed spa — a staple at Soho House locations but the first one that nonmembers can visit.113-125 N. Green Street, sohohousechicago.com