Opening a social club during a time of social distancing isn’t exactly ideal, but Common House, the new social club opening in Richmond on Oct. 15, is ready to take on the challenge.
Common House is a new take on the age-old social club. This isn’t your dad’s country club or your community pool — although Common House does have a rooftop pool and bar.
“We want people to think of it as their third space: it’s not work, it’s not home, but the space in between,” said Austin Bailey, director of membership.
That means Common House has a little bit of everything: it has a co-working space, a restaurant, a bar, a social hall, an event space that can be rented for weddings or corporate events with a courtyard plus a rooftop pool and bar.
The Common House idea has taken off with professionals who typically work from home and are looking for a co-working space with conference rooms, podcasting abilities and the chance to network.
The concept comes from Charlottesville, where the first Common House opened in 2017.
“At Common House, we have members who use it every day to work and come back at night to meet friends for drinks. Others use it socially as a place to eat, drink or network,” co-founder Ben Pfinsgraff said.
The new building at 303 W. Broad St. has six floors including a basement wine cellar and screening room, plus a co-working floor with conference rooms and a podcast studio.
The social club was hoping to open with 1,000 members pre-COVID, but currently has 600 members enrolled and expects to have 800 total for its October opening. The Charlottesville location currently has 1,300 members, but is one-third of the size of the 24,000-square-foot Richmond location.
Co-founders Pfinsgraff and Derek Sieg said they wanted the membership to be “inclusive and diverse.” Bailey said early members include entrepreneurs, nonprofits, CEOs, executive professionals, freelancers and creative types.
“We want this to be a place where everyone feels welcome. We wanted to make this as affordable as possible. There are no social hurdles to membership. If you apply, you’re getting in,” Pfinsgraff said.
Membership is $75 per month for members under 30 and $150 for people over 30 or $225 per couple. Membership also involves a one-time initiation fee of $100 to $500.
With the coronavirus pandemic, Common House has to make some adjustments.
At 24,000 square feet, Common House will operate at 50% capacity under the current COVID guidelines “to ensure that all members feel comfortable and safe,” according to organizers.
Plexiglass partitions have been added to the open communal co-working tables on the second floor and chairs have been spaced at least 6 feet apart. The building was also designed so that members can work anywhere, whether that’s the coffee shop or the rooftop bar or the co-working stations.
Masks will be required indoors for members under current CDC guidelines except while eating or drinking. There will also be temperature checks.
Now that guidelines have relaxed a little, Common House will be offering a mix of in-person, in-house programs and online offerings. For example, it’s already planning live music and speakers during the first opening weeks.
The event space with attached courtyard is already a popular wedding destination with 50 weddings booked. Weddings range in size from micro-weddings at 20 people up to 150 under current restrictions.
Common House will have two restaurants: one on the ground floor with an attached coffee shop that’s open to the public, as well as a private, members-only restaurant on the fourth floor.
The restaurants will be run by executive chef Matt Green, who oversees all of the Common House restaurants, and locally by chef de cuisine Bryan McClure with “an American style but with a French influence,” Pfinsgraff said.
Most recently, McClure was the executive chef at TJ’s restaurant at The Jefferson Hotel; before that, he spent time in the kitchens at Dutch & Company and Pasture.
“It’s food that you’re excited to eat every day at affordable price points,” Pfinsgraff said.
Expect items like an upscale burger or hot chicken sandwich to more elevated items like a dry-aged sirloin or rabbit cacciatore, with most dishes running from $9 to $15.
Common House Richmond will employ about 75 people.
“Social clubs have been around for as long as civilization, but the way we’re doing it is much more in line with the needs of people today,” Pfinsgraff said.
A third Common House location is in the works for Chattanooga, Tenn.