A New Soho House in Portland Brings Soul-Searching (and a Rooftop Pool)

In a very particular corner of Portland, Ore., there is a dive bar whose vending machine dispenses tarot cards and a dessert joint with a white-water kayak in its bathroom. On a nearby block, for vaguely environmental reasons, a dozen goats used to roam free.

The goats are gone now, replaced by an apartment complex with a Chipotle. Many Portland residents have grown to expect this kind of development; what they were not expecting was a Soho House.

That London-based chain of exclusive members’ clubs, known as a posh hangout for jet-setters and celebrities, will open a new outpost this week in the gentrifying stretch of Portland known as the Central Eastside. Its arrival introduces a rooftop pool, a two-story gym and a restaurant serving steelhead tartare to a freshly renovated industrial building that once housed one of the city’s scrappy artist cooperatives.

Members who apply and are accepted to the Portland club will pay $1,950 a year for access to its amenities; $4,500 a year also grants entry to Soho House locations in London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles.

Portland’s hipster stereotype was never as total as “Portlandia”-style caricature made it seem: The city has a growing population of well-heeled professionals who work at Nike or for the creative agency Wieden+Kennedy, rent luxury apartments in the Pearl District and stop for martinis at the 20th-floor bar of the new Ritz-Carlton downtown. Soho House, which has recently been fending off suggestions of financial precarity, is most likely banking on this crowd to join.

Still, the apparent friction between Soho House’s you-can’t-sit-with-us brand and Portland’s reputation for crunchy eccentricity has made the club a kind of inkblot test for locals’ opinions on the city’s evolving identity.

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