For any bona fide Aman junkie, it’s the kind of opportunity that’s too good to pass up: an invitation-only Aman Club located at Aman New York, in the Crown Building, at the corner of Fifth and 57th—the hotel franchise’s first urban property in North America.
That was certainly the thought process of one devotee of Aman resorts. This person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wired the $100,000 initiation fee after one phone conversation, and without even seeing the actual club. That’s the kind of confidence Aman, one of the most elite hospitality companies on the planet, inspires in its guests.
The newly minted member was informed that the property would open in five to six weeks. That was last year. (The hotel has now told club members it will open on August 2, 2022.) “I was told there would be a spacious members’ lounge, all-day dining, fireplaces. Plus, the design looked gorgeous—it’s done by Jean-Michel Gathy, who has designed so many hotels that I love. In the drawings, they had an outdoor pool,” the club member said. “We have kept Aman Club members up to date on anticipated opening dates throughout the construction and renovation of the property,” says Aman’s spokesperson, “and Aman Club members were the first to receive the news [of the August opening date].”
And the Aman Club would be a civilized space to retreat to in Manhattan. “Soho House in the West Village is too overrun, the one in Dumbo is too far if you live on the Upper East Side, Core Club doesn’t really have a brand, and Fasano is nice, but it’s not spacious,” the Aman’s Club member said, referring to the Brazilian members’ club in the East 60s.
But when things look too good to be true, they so often are. Alas, even the rarefied members of the Aman Club, who collectively will add around $10 million annually to the Aman coffers, will have to travel like the rest of us, over bridges and tunnels to reach an outdoor pool this summer. Several of the private apartments—or “residences,” in Aman idiom—have access to an outdoor pool. There are 22 apartments in the $1.4 billion development.
A friend of the member went on a tour of the space and relayed that the person giving the tour acknowledged that there has been some disappointment from membership about there being no outdoor pool. And while Aman’s web site boasts that its indoor pool is part of a three-story spa complex and will be “surrounded by fire pits and daybeds,” the member says it looked more like “a municipal pool”—a sharp contrast to its pool in Tokyo, which is soothingly minimal. “It’s like you are paying for a title,” says the member, referring to the membership card, “and then everything else is [sold] à la carte—drinks, spa treatments, and you can’t even bring a guest to the pool. What is the money for?” (A spokesperson for Aman said that members are permitted to bring up to five guests with them at any time to the restaurants and private members-only spaces and can book pricey appointments for them at the Aman Spa, which gives them access to the pool.)
But when things look too good to be true, they so often are.
Part of the confusion over the outdoor pool—an important feature at many Aman properties—is the rendering shown to prospective members was of a pool that was located in to a private apartment. The company says images of the pool that is part of a residence have been utilized on the Aman Web site and have been made available to press for use, but only in relation to the “Branded Residences” at the property. Not to promote the Aman Club offering.
So what, exactly, is the Aman Club? In marketing-speak it promises “guests transformational experiences within exceptional locations, all with the revered Aman service, privacy and feeling of sanctuary. The creation of the Aman Club is an extension and evolution of this, continuing to put our guests and their needs at the heart of our offering,” says Aman’s spokesperson.
Aman Club members also have access to the Aman Private Office team, a service one member used to plan a trip to another Aman and described the level of service as equivalent to booking it online through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts. While technically a membership perk, it is also yet another revenue driver for Aman, as it facilitates more hotel bookings.
The company said that club members will have “privileged” access—your guess is as good as mine—to all of the Aman New York hotel amenities. Those include the Aman Club Lounges, located on the 14th and 15th floors; the Cigar Lounge; a private wine library; the Aman Spa, which spans three floors and includes a 65-foot indoor pool; the restaurants Avra and Nama; and access to Aman’s Jazz Club, which will have live music every night of the week. Members will also eventually receive access to Aman Clubs at all future urban destinations for the brand, including Aman Miami Beach and Aman Nai Lert Bangkok, which are still in development.
That does not mean, though, that a $100,000 membership includes complimentary spa treatments or a discount at the restaurant. As at many private clubs, access simply means the privilege of paying. There are no free lunches at Aman, or drinks, for that matter, although Aman’s spokesperson points out that club members will receive a 10 percent discount on food and beverages. Aman Club members can participate in the “Aman Wine Programme,” curated by master sommelier Laura Williamson, which gives them, among other things, access to a private list of rare labels and vintages. Yet there is still a $50 corkage for drinking your own wine.
Amy Sacco, who is best known for starting Bungalow 8, the early-aughts downtown hot spot, was originally going to oversee nightlife for the project, but now is no longer involved, according to an Aman spokesperson. Sacco declined to comment, pursuant to a contractual clause. Vanessa Grout, who was most recently the president of CMC real estate, is now Aman’s global head of residences and club.
Like at many private clubs, access simply means the privilege of paying.
While the locals might not be fully impressed at Aman’s expansion into the “urban oasis” space, two jet-setters, one from Europe and the other from South America, who have drunk the Aman Kool-Aid, told me they were eager to stay at the hotel.
But one of them, who is a luxury-travel expert, did concede that “Equinox probably has a better gym than the Aman.” But that’s a small quibble in the grand scheme of things. “It [Aman New York] is phenomenal and a game changer, but if you live in New York, I can see how it might not be interesting to be a member.”
But the real headache for Aman might actually not be in New York. Last week, Vladislav Doronin, the Russian-born owner and C.E.O. of Aman, who recently acquired one acre of real estate at the base of Aspen Mountain, warmed up to his new neighbors by suing a local newspaper, The Aspen Times, for defamation over the headline Oligarch or not, new Aspen investor has Russian ties. (The litigation ultimately reached a settlement.)
Doronin, who once dated Naomi Campbell, had his P.R. people respond by saying that “to call him an oligarch would mean that any and every Russian-born businessman in the world would be one, which is obviously not the case.” A very good point. Still, issues with the Aman Club may be the least of their problems.
Hannah Seligson is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Town & Country, and the Daily Beast. She is New York–based, and her most recent book is Mission: Adulthood: How the 20-Somethings of Today Are Transforming Work, Love, and Life