The Handbook
The Handbook

Private members’ club to the glitterati, Annabel’s, is synonymous with style, famous-es and Instagrammable loos. Historically the nightclub of choice for old money, aristos and the smart set, Annabel’s left its home and posho membership in the basement of 45 Berkeley Square and embraced its new identity next door as a Martin Brudzinski four-storey wonder world for the rich and (sometimes) famous. Well, when they left their infamous cellar to pastures more adjacent, they also gave up their lease at number 45. And now an interloper plans to open a club to rival Annabel’s literally on its doorstep.

Syrian-born billionaire property developer Simon Halabi has occupied number 45 Berkeley Square, a sprawling Mayfair townhouse, as offices for his family company for years, and (he claims) he’s long harboured plans to open a club there too (indeed, he approached Westminster Council with potential plans in 2015). After a high court battle with his erstwhile tenants, a judge has given a thumbs-up just as long as Halabi didn’t open a lap dancing club…

So what kind of non-lap-dancing-club might be planned for 45 Berkeley Square? Well the townhouse is one of the larger ones on the square so there’s scope for something truly impressive. Formerly the home of adventure soldier Clive of India, the property stretches right through to Hay’s Mews, the road behind Berkeley Square.

The 2015 council application outlined plans for a two-storey basement, digging out a double-height ballroom at sub-basement level. This will be overlooked by a gallery bar and a subterranean restaurant including a chef’s table private dining room complete with a glass canopy roof. Not to mention lounges as well as a large winter garden covered by a grand glass roof competing the underground portion.

The ground floor would include a reception, four lounges or bars, a billiards room as well as the impressive staircase. The first floor includes plans for a grand lounge, restoring the famous drawing room featured in Country Life in 1937. The floor would also feature a cigar lounge, a terrace and a large cinema room with its own bar that could be accessed from Hay’s Mews via a ground floor lobby as well as through the main building.

Moving upstairs, the second floor would split between the main house and the mews property. On the Berkeley Square side a bar and billiards room would be joined by a bar and three further lounge rooms. Over to Hay’s Mews and a spa would include four treatment rooms, a spa pool, steam room and sauna.

Plans don’t reveal what Halabi might have planned for the third and fourth floors, probably offices for administration, though if the new club included bedrooms it would be able to get one more over on Annabel’s next door, which isn’t able to put up punters from out of town.

But of course the 2014 date on the planning application documentation is interesting, likewise the 2012 date on the plans themselves. Back then we might’ve been forgiven for thinking, given the original Annabel’s was located in the basement of number 45 for decades, perhaps the Westminster Council application was actually intended for Annabel’s itself. We will never know if this was the blueprint for Annabel’s 2.0, given Annabel’s moved from 45 to the next door property owned by Abu Dhabi owned Berkeley Square Holdings, but it’s certainly possible.

Regardless of whether this is exactly what Halabi has planned for the new club and how well he will execute it, one thing is for sure, he will need to have deep pockets, or else find an operator who does to rival Annabel’s which cost a huge £65m to redevelop. The London club scene is already saturated with top end clubs, from Annabel’s to the sprawling Soho House empire, Berkeley Square itself also has Morton’s, the real question is ‘is there room for another top flight night club?’ Simon Halabi clearly thinks so, but Annabel’s will be a near-impossible act to follow…