The Shaw Bijou’s Private Club Will Be a “Social Experiment”

Nearly 1,000 people are already on the waitlist.

The Shaw Bijou's membership program has nearly 1,000 people on the wait-list. Photograph courtesy of The Shaw Bijou

The Shaw Bijou opens today, and is one of the most expensive dining experiences in Washington. Still, if you think $185 tasting menus are exclusive, consider the restaurant’s members-only club.

Private membership at the Shaw restaurant/club isn’t the kind where any Joe Schmoe III can pay his way in.

“We have almost a 1,000 person waitlist,” says owner Kelly Gorsuch. “The dues won’t be much—just enough to keep frat boys out. It’s more about curating the people. We’re shooting to have people in different circles, because otherwise it’s going to become a boy’s lobbyist club, and that’s what we do not want. It will be more about seeing what people are doing in their industries, and putting them together.”

Gorsuch, the high-profile hair stylist behind Immortal Beloved and Cavalry salons (among others), owns the 1860’s brownstone that now houses the Shaw Bijou. While all dinner patrons begin their experience in the second-floor bar, a separate members-only lounge with 50 seats is still under construction on the same floor. Gorsuch hopes for a New Year’s Eve opening.

“It will be a social experiment,” says Gorsuch. “When you put entrepreneurs together with captains of industry, you might get a great business. And as a business guy, I’ve always wanted to see what happens when you do that. It will be more about what you’re creating than what you do.”

Membership perks have everything to do with access to the Shaw Bijou. Regular patrons must purchase ticketed reservations for entry–similar to a concert or theater performance–and pre-pay for a 13-course meal with beverages. Members can drop by on a whim and order a la carte cocktails, vintage spirits, and food from chef Kwame Onwuachi—even at odd hours.

“Someone will be in the building at all times,” says Gorsuch. “We’ll let people come in for a business meeting—I don’t care if it’s three in the morning—or just hang out on the couch and read a book. The members will have full access.”

Gorsuch says “a collective” will select members, though details on fees and a formal application process are still in the works. As of now, the first step to membership–at least for the public–involves signing up for information on the Shaw Bijou’s website.

Stay tuned for more details.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.