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Restaurateur close to debuting members-only club atop InterContinental San Diego

The Reading Club is scheduled to open in September.
The Reading Club, which sits atop the InterContinental San Diego near the bayfront, is scheduled to open in September.
(Arlene Ibarra)

Long shrouded in secrecy, The Reading Club is soliciting members as it prepares for a September opening

Nearly three years after starting construction on a rooftop venue for the InterContinental hotel downtown, a San Diego restaurant group is now ready to unveil what it says is its most ambitious project yet.

Long shrouded in secrecy — even hotel management was kept in the dark — the $6 million Reading Club is nearly complete and is soliciting paying members who will have exclusive use of the 6,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor space on the 19th floor of the bay-view highrise.

CH Projects, known for other high-profile projects like Born & Raised, Ironside and Raised by Wolves, plans to officially open The Reading Club the first week of September. In the meantime, it is sorting through nearly 1,000 applications for what will be 400 membership slots.

Decked out with custom chandeliers, marbled checkered floors and vaulted 20-foot ceilings clad in walnut millwork, the club space will include multiple amenities for members, including a dining room, private meeting rooms, meditation areas, a library and reading room, a wellness director, and access to the hotel pool and gym. Members will enter the club space through a bookshelf-lined room.

The decor is defined by ornate neoclassical details, and the main salon will showcase a hand-painted mural inspired by the 19th century Hudson River School landscape paintings.

Membership pricing will range from $1,700 to $2,600 annually, plus an initiation fee of $484, although there will be subsidies available to assist those unable to afford the annual cost.

“We don’t want the economic factor to be a reason why you should not be a member, so we will subsidize that,” said CH Projects co-founder Arsalun Tafazoli. “If your values align and the only reason you can’t be a member is economic, we’ll subsidize those costs.”

The membership application gives a hint of what those sought-after values are. Among the questions: “What would be the title of your autobiography?” “What do you do and why do you do it?” “What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?”

CH Projects has control over the entire hotel rooftop under a lease with Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, co-developer of the InterContinental, which opened three years ago. In addition to The Reading Club, the hospitality group has plans for a Roman-style trattoria, Seneca, that will take up the other side of the rooftop area. It will likely open a couple of months after the club, Tafazoli said.

The pandemic, including a COVID-19 outbreak during construction, contributed to development delays, as did the challenges associated with building atop a highrise. On three occasions, CH had to shut down Broadway in order to move large pieces — including a sculpted mantelpiece — onto the rooftop via a crane because they wouldn’t fit inside the cargo elevator.

CH Projects’ latest endeavor was born out of a desire, Tafazoli said, to try something different to connect with its patrons and the community.

“It’s not about getting more people into our tent but how do we go deeper and offer a more personalized experience that you can’t get in a public space,” he said. “We’re all in a cultural moment now where we’re vagabonds of sorts and the lines between office and restaurant and home — we want to blur those. It builds on what we already do and we wanted to see if we could create an experience that fosters those aspects of our daily lives.”

In keeping with the company’s sometimes quirky predilections — like no vodka or ketchup at a few of its restaurants — there will be some very specific membership rules designed to foster more personal interactions. For instance, after 5 p.m., no laptops will be allowed, and sharing of images of the space on social media will not be permitted at any time, Tafazoli said.

“You see so many spaces built for the Instagram moment,” he said. “This is not going to be a space you’ll see on social media, we want people there to engage in the now. Screens take you out of the moment.”


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