Spoke Club Toronto

Six private member clubs in Toronto you probably don't want to join anyway

Private member clubs in Toronto are just like Cheers. Yes, everyone knows your name--the only difference is that you've probably forked over thousands and thousands of dollars for that recognition. But everyone wants to belong, right? There are many private member clubs in Toronto where, upon acceptance, you can be among an elite network of politicos, cultural selects, or.. uh.. people who like good whiskey. Here are some private member clubs in Toronto.

The Spoke Club
For $800 a year (and a one-time initiation fee of $500) you can be a member of The Spoke Club, a members-only private club for individuals "with an interest in media, entertainment and the arts." While I lean on my bus pass and discount AGO tickets for the occasional culture fix, Spoke members can access the club's own professional art gallery and screening room from its location on King West. The Spoke Club also has a reading room, several lounge areas, event spaces, and a rooftop garden. Hungry? How does an heirloom beet and ancient grain salad from the dining room sound? It can all be yours upon completion of a one-page application, wherein you must explain your connection to the world of art and media (although this is interpreted very loosely), as well as list your favourite book. Oh, and I think the cheque has to clear as well.

Verity is private members club for women located at the Queen Richmond Centre. Focused on business, social, fitness and wellness, it has its own spa, gym, library, yoga and spinning studios, meeting rooms, a restaurant, and even a boutique hotel called The Ivy at Verity. The cost to join? $2,717.65 annually, plus a one-time initiation fee of $9,500. And while yes, that does sound like one hell of a price tag for a gym and meeting room membership, Verity does host a variety of programs focused on giving back to the community. Every month, women from the Regent Park community are invited to the club for pampering at its spa and dinner at its restaurant. Verity also runs '100 Friends at Christmas' each year, providing Christmas dinner and presents to single moms and their kids in the community.

Toronto Temperance Society
Boozehounds need not apply. The Toronto Temperance Society is "for those who enjoy drinking well with other civilized adults," so I gather you should leave your "Irish I were drunk" tee at home. A bummer. On College between Bathurst and Ossington, Toronto Temperance Society members enjoy world-class spirits and cocktails, many of which have been adapted from recipes dating back more than a hundred years. Ordering a Cosmo is a definite no-no at this club, but a brandy punch, red burns, or Innis & Gunn Blonde beer are acceptable Temperance choices. Annual membership fees are $285, and include access to various seminars and professional tastings. But please note: individuals under 25 years of age are not allowed as per Temperance Society rules, unless, of course, they are "accompanied by an adult."

The Toronto Club
The Toronto Club is Toronto's oldest private club, dating all the way back to 1837. It is also perhaps one of Toronto's most guarded clubs in terms of privacy, with little publicly known about what goes on behind clubhouse doors. Located at Wellington and York streets, its elite membership has seen the likes of prominent business people including Galen Weston and Fred Eaton. According to a source tapped by the Toronto Star, prospective members need to know between five and 10 current members to even be considered. Rumour also has it that the leader is named "Number One," and members meet on Wednesday nights to get drunk and play ping pong. Annual dues are $2,500, with an initial fee of $25,000.

The Albany Club
The Albany Club is another Toronto members club with a long history dating back to 1882. On King East, the club, named after the Duke of Albany, was started by founding member Sir John A. Macdonald. In its own words, The Albany Club is "for those who influence, celebrate, debate, and promote Canada's conservative and political history, ideals, values and leadership." So no Pinkos allowed. And yes, former Premier Mike Harris is a member, if that wasn't already obvious. Club events include formal dinners, wine appreciation luncheons, and "Pitt Society" events for members aged 35 and younger. And just to fully round out the stereotype, The Albany Club has a humidor of fine cigars that will "impress the most discriminating aficionados." Annual fees are $2,305 for resident members (less for younger members or students) with an entrance fee of $4,300.

The National Club
The National Club was started in 1874, originally as a home for the Canada First Party. As the Party began to dissolve, the club evolved to a non-political organization and found its second home at 303 Bay Street where it still thrives today. That's where it keeps its 50,000-bottle wine cellar, which I'm sure helps to lubricate the business and personal socializing going on at the club. Along with its dining and business facilities, The National Club offers guest suites, access to the Plaza Sports Club, and member events including theme nights and oyster parties. Prospective members need a recommendation from an existing member before meeting with two members of the Board of Directors. And don't forget to turn off your cell--it's against the rules to use it on the premises.

Photo of the Spoke Club by matchstickinc

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