The 7 Most Exclusive Members-Only Clubs in Chicago — And How to Join

Have your initiation fee, college diploma and/or high-engagement Instagram account at the ready

March 17, 2023 7:43 am
An ornate glass bottle of half empty whisky with a set of glasses and tumblers on a serving tray, in atmospherically lit on an old-fashioned, classy wood-panelled bar.
You've heard of them. Here's how to get in.
Naomi Rahim via Getty

Here in the Windy City, there small yet mighty collection of invite-only or referral-only clubs for very special people. Sounds like your type of fun? These are your top 12 options.

University Club of Chicago 

To gain admission to this exclusive social club, you’ll need to submit a few things: the degree from your four-year college; three letters of recommendation from current club members; and a nomination form. Then, you’ll sit through an interview and wait for a week, while other club members offer their opinion on your status. If accepted, you’ll be invited to dinners, speaking events, parties and outings, and societies including the Cigar Society, Chess Group and Wine Society. The club’s home, at 76 East Monroe Street, also features guest rooms, restaurants and a fitness center. 

The Metropolitan Club 

This club was created for business professionals interested in networking, listening to other successful people speak and dining with various leaders in the community. It’s all about making connections — but before you do so, you must be recommended by another member, and you must be able to afford the dues, which vary by age.

Soho House 

Do you have a cool job, an aggressively curated Instagram account and $2,000-plus to drop on a club membership? Then you may be accepted to join Soho House in Fulton Market, where you can rub shoulders with similarly cool people in the rooftop pool, movie theater, gym, hotel, co-working space and restaurants. 

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The Cliff Dwellers

Attention, artsy people: this is the club for you. They will only accept you if you’re actively acting, designing, writing or otherwise engaged in a similar artistic profession, or a supporter of such endeavors. Oh, and you must have a sponsor or co-sponsor to convince The Cliff Dwellers that you’re as committed as you claim you are. If you pass the test, you get to dine here, mingle with other artists, view galleries, attend events and expand your artistic knowledge. 

Entrepreneurs’ Organization 

The fees at this business club ($4,500 per year, plus an initiation fee of $3,500) shouldn’t be an issue, as you’ll only be granted a membership here if you are an owner, founder or majority stakeholder of a company that earned at least $1 million in the previous fiscal year. Once you’re in the EO, you’ll get to mingle and network with more than 12,000 business owners globally.

The Chicago Club 

You’ll only be admitted to this prestigious club by invitation (if you haven’t gotten invited yet, keep checking that mailbox). If you are invited, make sure you read the dress code, as it’s very strict (though not overly formal). Once you’re granted a membership to this historic social club, their facilities will be open to you, from a fitness center to spaces for board meetings and weddings.

The Arts Club of Chicago 

Do you love the arts, and can you prove it? Apply to the Arts Club with a recommendation and proof of your professional, philanthropic or amateur artistic activities. Benefits of a membership include artistic programming, private event rentals, luncheons, a ball and other parties, and lots of exhibits. 

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