Bankers out of favour at exclusive London club

LONDON (Reuters) - Bankers hoping to join one of London’s most exclusive private members clubs may find themselves turned away at the door for... being a banker. Centrally-located Soho House is returning to its roots as a club for people connected to the media and arts, disappointing dealmakers hoping to splash part of a recent bonus on a 1,200-pound annual membership.

The club, the first of a chain of Soho Houses now spanning Berlin, New York and Hollywood, said it is refocusing its admissions policy on the “creative industries.”

“There is no strict anti-banker policy but our clubs are very much rooted in the creative industries,” said a London-based Soho House spokesperson.

“It’s at the committees’ discretion who they keep. Some people make the grade and some people don’t. It’s based on their links and their commitment to the creative industries and the clubs.”

The club’s website said it boasts a restaurant, bars and a rooftop terrace with views across London’s central shopping district.

Bankers have been pilloried by the public for accepting lavish bonuses at a time of harsh spending cuts for the rest of the economy -- not least the so-called creative industries.

Arts Council England -- which distributes public money to art galleries, theatres and museums -- is facing a 30 percent cut in its budget over four years as the government tries to tackle Britain’s record budget deficit.

Some in the industry say many private clubs grew fat on the revenues of London’s growing financial service sector workforce in the good years, but are now trying to tighten up.

“They (Clubs) do have situations where they’ve got lots of people in financial services and they have to do a bit of housekeeping and say we want to get back to our creative roots,” said the managing director of another Soho-based club, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Membership of Soho House requires that each applicant is nominated by two existing members, before the application is reviewed by the appropriate club’s membership committee, which sits every three months.

The Groucho Club, founded nearby in 1985 by a group of publishers wanting an alternative to London’s stuffy gentlemen’s clubs, says accepted applicants are predominantly those working in “Arts and Media,” according to its website.

Editing by David Cowell