Kings of clubs: the men who run London’s posh party scene are expanding their empires

Ruski?s arrival follows the launch this year of Guy Pelly?s Sloane Square nightspot Tonteria, the recent opening of Soho Sloane-magnet Disco and last winter?s big arrival, Bodo?s Schloss. Anyone who thought the posh clubbing phenomenon would fade as the social lives of the princes settled down only needs to look at the queues those venues attract on weekend nights for evidence that quite the opposite is happening. And the clubbing kingpins who once partied with William and Harry are now selling expensive drinks to the armies of girls who still hold out hope of a royal dance.

In fact, when the Standard called around, both Guy Pelly and his former business partner Howard Spooner revealed that they are opening new clubs in the near future. Here’s the latest from the chaps who rule posh London by night.


Ruski ravers

Diego Bivero-Volpe and Antoin Commane

Tonight this new pair of club owners will be nervously awaiting their first guests as Ruski?s opens for business on the easterly edge of High Street Kensington. It is marketed as a ?caviar and vodka tavern? and sits opposite Bodo?s Schloss where Bivero-Volpe, 30, and Commane, 28, properly made their name as promoters last year.

?We don?t have a guest list, but what we have is a door picker, a guy called Bruno who essentially curates the door,? says Bivero-Volpe, who is aiming for a 25-plus crowd. ?There are no set criteria, it?s more about your vibe and how he thinks you will fit in to the party,? he says.

Bruno is a model in his mid-twenties who Bivero-Volpe says ?knows what a good party is?. And is he expecting visits from the residents of nearby Kensington Palace? ?I can?t really release who is coming, but I can tell you that a few of our very close neighbours are popping in,? he says. Harry Hunters, form an orderly queue.


Party princes

Guy Pelly and Marc Burton

Described by one of his competitors as ?the Pied Piper of the young in Chelsea?, Pelly came to national attention as one of Prince William?s best friends and the marketing manager of Mayfair hotspot Mahiki. That?s where he met 29-year-old Marc Burton, and now the two are in business together as co-owners of Sloane Square bar/club Tonteria, having sold their stakes in Whisky Mist.

?We knew we had to create something really interesting and unique, and hopefully we have kind of achieved that,? Pelly tells me, taking delight in describing Tonteria?s eccentric Mexican-inspired aesthetic. ?We want it to feel like an old Mexican hacienda. We?ve got old wooden beams reclaimed from a wood yard and we went to a mascot company and got these massive wrestler masque heads that the girls put on when they bring out drinks. There?s a lot of theatre going on.?

A mini-train runs around the ceiling delivering shots, and the place turns from a relaxed tapas and cocktail bar into a bouncing club at about 10 o?clock. Pelly reveals that we can expect another venue from the pair in the next year as well. ?We work really well together. Tonteria has been a success, and we?re about the same age and we definitely want to work as a pair on other projects,? he says.

Pelly says the pair have two nightclub ideas, one that suits a Chelsea venue and one suits a Mayfair venue, and they are now searching for locations for an opening next year.


Schlossy posse

David Phelps, Piers Adam and Nick House

The godfathers of posh London clubbing, Phelps, Adam and House jointly own Mahiki?s, Bodo?s Schloss and Canaloa, and they all have other interests too (Adam and House own Whisky Mist, and Adam owns the private members Brompton Club, for example). Austrian-themed Bodo?s is their most recent hit, filling up with a young west London crowd as soon as it opened last year and taking a million pounds in its first five weeks.

?It is one of the most successful clubs we?ve ever launched,? says the media-shy Phelps, and he forecasts that it can take another million this December when its wintry theme comes into its own again.

?I think one of the reasons we?ve continued to succeed is that we have never sort of bought other people?s clubs, we have always created our own thing,? he says, ?Mahiki was very different from anything anyone had done for years, and Bodo?s Schloss is a completely different concept to anything I?ve ever seen in London.?

A big Mahiki outpost in Dubai is already working well for the trio and four more international sites are lined up, including New York. ?It has now been running in Mayfair successfully for seven years, and it?s still at the pinnacle which is quite rare for a nightclub. So all our efforts the past two years have been doing these international deals to roll Mahiki out,? says Phelps, who started doing events with Adam when they were 19-year-old students at Oxford polytechnic.

Posh club godfathers: Nick House and Piers Adams (Picture: Matt Writtle) ?

Duke of clubs

Howard Spooner

When the Chelsea super-club Public went up in flames last year after a very brief life, it was a big blow for the tall, friendly Spooner and his co-owners Pelly and Phelps. When he was forced to close Public by a restricted council licence he went up the road and opened DukeBox, a very expensive and very small venue that has become a firm favourite among twentysomething Fulhamites. Now we can reveal that Spooner ? who also owns much bigger and less posh Clapham Grand which he describes as ?a mid-twenties snogathon? ? is moving south of the river to Battersea.

?I literally just sold my stake in DukeBox,? he says, confirming he has sold out to his co-founder Dipak Panchal, and at a profit. ?It was fun for a year but after a year I thought: he?s got his own ideas, I?ve definitely got my own ideas, so before we started pulling in different directions we sort of almost tossed a coin as to who was going to buy who out.?

His new venture in Battersea is ?a Masonic hall that hasn?t been touched since 1940,? he says, promising a venue that will give the armies of well-wheeled young people in the area a place to go after Bunga Bunga. ?There?s nowhere like it in this area.?

It will open just before Christmas, he says: ?No-one knows about it, the ink?s not even dry.?


Bouji knight

Matt Hermer

This year Hermer celebrated the 10th anniversary of Boujis ? the club which launched when Prince Harry was 19 and William was 21 and began the Sloaney nightlife revolution. The former City boy, who also owns the Eclipse cocktails bars, is now married with a child, and says he only pops in to Boujis once a month these days.

?Of course it didn?t hinder business,? Hermer says when I ask him how important the royal connection was, ?but these things cause problems too. I would love for them to come in every night, but the place becomes a bit different ? you get security in there, you get people coming in who want to take pictures.?

Hermer?s staying power has had a lot do with maintaining his club?s slightly ?Sloane Mark 1? atmosphere. ?Europeans and public school Brits have been our crowd,? he says, ?that?s who we had from the onset and that was part of the appeal. We were never aiming for the massive high spenders ? the Russians, the Arabs ? we never went after them, which means our regulars still feel comfortable.?


Bunga boys

Duncan Stirling and Charlie Gilkes

Known as the ?Bunga Bunga boys? after the success of their Battersea karaoke bar of that name, Gilkes and Stirling are now opening clubs at an alarming rate, with Seventies-themed Soho den Disco their latest venture. If it turns out as well as Bunga Bunga or their Fulham Road club Maggie?s, the pair will join the posh club elite.

Gilkes is close to Pippa and has holidayed with the Middletons on the island of Mustique, but his venues get most of their appeal from being more laid back than clubs like Whisky Mist or Boujis.

?For me,? Gilkes tells the Standard, ?this industry encompasses everything I love: food, travel, drink and property.

Club skippers: Duncan Stirling and Charlie Gilkes (Picture: Rebecca Reid) ?


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