We all want to feel like we’re part of something. From corner bars stuck in the Daley era to places of almost comedic affluence, Chicago has a members-only club for everyone. Membership requirements can range from owning a nice boat to being tight with the Bridgeport Italians.
Members-only clubs may feel like a relic of the past, but that might just be because we were never invited. The below map shows 10 members-only spots in Chicago across Chicago, seemingly concentrated around Downtown and on the South Side. This is by no means a conclusive list, as the most secret clubs may not be Google-able.
St. Joseph’s Club – 2724 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Bridgeport is littered with members-only bars, but this one may be the most iconic. Formed in 1926 to provide a social forum for Italian Immigrants who lived nearby, St. Josephs is mostly frequented by third and fourth generation descendants of those immigrants. They’ve since lifted being Italian as a prerequisite to membership, however there is a long waiting list. “At one time we only accepted Italians, but now we’re open to anybody a member can bring in of good character.” according to a spokesperson in a 2001 Tribune article.
Flags Club – 552 W 47th St, Chicago, IL 60609
The best description available of flags club is that its a “private social athletic club.” They seem to collaborate with the Canaryville veterans association on events.
Forest Glen Club – 3456 W Irving Park Rd Chicago, IL 60618
One of Chicago’s infamous “key clubs” where the alcohol doesn’t have to stop flowing at 4am. According to reviews on Yelp and Google, the club is members only, but they occasionally will let you pay $5 to get in as a non-member. Key clubs are invisible from the street level, but it seems fitting the nearest marked business is an alcoholics anonymous location.
Soho House Chicago – 125 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607
Soho House is intended for “creatives”, though what that exactly means seems intentionally vague. For the low price of $2000/yr, you can access the club, and finally feel assured in your creativity.
Hamburg Athletic Club – 3523 S Emerald Ave Chicago, IL 60609
Another Bridgeport classic, this one is notable for its connections to the Daleys. There are two reviews on Yelp, one exalting the Club’s ‘members only’ status because it “keeps the dirtbags out”. The other calling the entire establishment a “racist irish-American gang.”
University Club of Chicago – 76 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603
With a public image emphasizing academia rather than business, this club requires at least a Bachelor’s degree. Of course, in addition to $245 a month and a $1500 initiation fee.
The Pub – 1212 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637
It’s a pretty normal looking pub, but if you’re not affiliated with Uchicago, it’s a no-go. It seems unfair, the UIC bowling alley is open to the public.
Columbia Yacht Club – 111 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60601
Yachts just make sense as a symbol of affluence, especially when you’re in a city where you can’t use them for most of the year. Pricing is apparently based on age, with a couple estimates I read online starting at $1400.
The Chicago Club – 81 E Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60605
In a 1975 study, “Social clubs, policy-planning groups, and corporations: A network study of ruling-class cohesiveness,” a Berkley sociologist ranked the social “centrality” of elite decision-maker social spaces. The Chicago Club ranked 8th total, and 3rd for social clubs. This was 45 years ago, but it seems like the energy in Chicago’s oldest members-only club hasn’t changed. There is a strict dress code, phone use policy, and apparently subpar valet.
Union League Club – 65 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604
Union league club seems like the members-only club for your everyday elites. Membership will only ding you $235 a month, with discounts available if you’re under 35.