I visited New York's new Playboy Club, where Playboy Bunnies serve drinks in their iconic costumes and members pay up to $100,000 a year — and it wasn't at all what I expected

Katie Warren/Business InsiderPlayboy Club memberships range from $US5,000 to $US100,000 a year.
  • A new Playboy Club has opened in New York City, 30 years after the last club closed down.
  • It includes swanky lounges, a super-exclusive subterranean speakeasy, and, of course, Playboy Bunnies who serve drinks in updated versions of the iconic costumes and bunny ears.
  • Memberships for the club start at $US5,000 and go up to $US100,000 for top-tier VIP access with some outrageous perks.
  • Honestly, I expected the club to feel somewhat like a strip club – but was pleasantly surprised.

Thirty years after the last Playboy Club closed down, the Playboy Bunnies can once again be found serving drinks in their iconic one-piece costumes complete with bow ties, bunny ears, and high heels.

The new Playboy Club opened in New York City amid mixed reviews, with some calling the club “tone deaf” for opening in the era of #MeToo.

The club’s creative and marketing directors, however, see it as a welcome revival of the brand. Richie Notar, the creative director of the club who is an alum of Nobu and Studio 54, and Nicole Levinson, who handles marketing and communications for the brand, say the club has always been ahead of its time and defend it as inherently empowering for women.

“We’re really just taking a brand that had a bit of a memory, an iconic brand, and reviving for a latter day,” Notar said. “Everyone has some connotation of what Playboy was. Somebody had their dad’s Playboy in their room – women wanted to be bunnies.”

Notar said it’s the people who make a club special – and he said he hoped this club would see a variety of interesting personalities. “We want 25-year-old up-and-coming artists to come here and sit next to a tech icon,” he said.

The bar area of the club is open to the public, but memberships for exclusive access and perks start at $US5,000 a year and go up to $US100,000. Those who buy a top-tier membership will get perks that include chauffeur services to and from the club, 10 complimentary nights at a local boutique hotel, 10 VIP sports tickets a year in the Playboy seats for either Giants, Jets, Knicks, or Rangers games or the US Open, and a VIP table with bottle service at all Playboy events. The club sold more than 200 memberships as of mid-October, about 40% of them to women, a representative told me.

I visited the new Playboy Club on West 42nd Street, a short walk from Times Square.

Here’s what it was like inside.


I headed to the Playboy Lounge on a Wednesday after work.

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The club is located at 10th Avenue and 42nd Street, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of midtown Manhattan. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Times Square.

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I easily spotted the club’s entrance, which looked exactly like the swanky lounge I expected it to be.

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The entrance is black and gold, with the iconic Playboy Bunny logo displayed front and center.

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It’s an updated look from New York’s old Playboy Club, whose midtown Manhattan location closed in 1986.

Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


I got there a few minutes before the bar opened, so I waited outside while the doorman went inside to confirm I had an appointment.

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I stepped inside the dimly lit entryway, which was all gold tones and glossy black surfaces.

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The walls were decorated with both vintage and new prints of women in the iconic Playboy Bunny outfits. Nicole Levinson, the senior vice president of brand marketing and communications for Playboy, told me the new club was inspired by the old ones.

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“It’s retro glam,” she said. “It kind of goes back to that period of the ’50s when [Hugh Hefner] built the mansion in Chicago. But the design is certainly not stuck in that era. It’s really the vibe and the spirit of the club where we pull from the most.”

Getty Images

It seems no design detail was overlooked.

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As I walked into the bar, staff members were busy getting the club ready to open. I got my first sighting of a Playboy Bunny — and it was exciting to see someone wearing the recognisable outfit in real life.

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The first area you enter is the Playboy Bar, which is open to the public. I was surprised to find that it felt like an upscale hotel bar, which made me realise I’d been expecting something that felt more like a strip club.

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A few people were there eating, even though the bar was technically still a few minutes from opening.

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Staff members dressed in white suits were prepping the bar.

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Bouquets of white roses decorated the bar — a fancy touch I don’t typically see at the Brooklyn dive bars I frequent.

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I noticed a section of the wall that was basically a grid of Playboy Bunny figures. Levinson told me it has become a hotspot for guests to take selfies.

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Richie Notar, the creative director of the club who is a veteran of Nobu, told me the club hoped to entertain a variety of people. “We want 25-year-old up-and-coming artists to come here and sit next to a tech icon,” he said. “That really is like the best dinner party ever.”

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Source: The Playboy Club NYC


The Playboy Bar has several dining tables and booths where guests can order from a menu created by Notar.

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Some of the dishes served at the club include a Wagyu ribeye steak frites with truffle butter …

The Playboy Club NYCWagyu ribeye steak frites.

Source: The Playboy Club NYC


… and beef tartare with a quail egg.

Source: The Playboy Club NYC


The iconic bunny logo looms from behind the bar’s DJ booth.

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The logo can also be seen hiding throughout the bar, even on the computer screensavers.

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Like the bartenders, the Playboy Bunnies were preparing for their shifts to start.

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The bunny costumes are custom-made and are never supposed to leave the premises. When one Bunny tried hers on for the first time, she said it made her feel like Wonder Woman, Levinson told me.

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My tour took me deeper into the club to the lounge areas, which are decked out in black leather, red wallpaper, red velvet chairs, and plenty of vintage Playboy imagery.

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Accessing these areas will cost you $US5,000 to $US100,000 a year, depending on which type of membership you get.

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Source: The Playboy Club NYC


In the elevated Royal Salute Lounge, a backgammon board pays homage to Hugh Hefner, who was apparently a big fan of the game.

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Source: The Playboy Club NYC


The Bunny Lounge includes a fish tank with a prominent bunny centrepiece that’s recessed into the wall, separating two seating areas and offering what Levinson called a “voyeuristic feel” between the lounges.

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For Notar, the old Playboy Clubs “represented travel and sophistication, almost like a James Bond kind of thing,” he said. “I want to wear a jacket and I want to go out and be an adult … So I think that’s what we want to try to portray here.”

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“We’re really just taking a brand that had a bit of a memory, an iconic brand, and reviving for a latter day,” Notar said.

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Notar is not fazed by criticism characterising the club’s reopening as “tone deaf” in the #MeToo era.

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Source: The Guardian


“If people think we’re some kind of jiggle joint on the West Side with guys ogling you — no, no, no,” he said. “First of all, I wouldn’t be here. But also, it’s a platform to show you that we can do great food and good service when you think it’s something else, and really capture your attention.”

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An interesting tidbit I learned was that although the old clubs’ members were all men, about 40% of the memberships sold so far at this one have been to women.

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Source: Architectural Digest


But so far, there have been zero complaints, Notar said. The club has already held several parties in its events space dubbed “The Black Box,” including an opening party and a Halloween masquerade ball.


One of my favourite parts of the tour was the club’s downstairs bathroom, with its retro-looking mirrors …

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… and a wall lined with vintage Playboy magazine covers — an ideal backdrop for bathroom selfie-takers. On the same level as the downstairs bathroom is Rabbit Hole, the ultra-exclusive subterranean speakeasy lounge that wasn’t open yet when I visited.

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As I started to leave the club, more people were starting to trickle in. It was welcoming enough that I actually felt inclined to stick around for a drink, though I had somewhere to be.

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I don’t know whether I’d ever buy a membership to the Playboy Club, but I headed home thinking that if one night I were to feel like dressing up a little and venturing beyond my Brooklyn haunts, I’d give the Playboy Club a try — which is not something I ever thought I’d consider.

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