Women clad in luxe monokinis, beefed up men with nondescript “tribal” tattoos, people popping champagne and allowing themselves to be carried on the shoulders of high-payers…
When you step inside the walled-in Vesper Dayclub tucked away on Germantown Avenue — right behind the Northern Liberties development formerly known as the Piazza — you’re mentally transported to a pool party at the Delano on South Beach or the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.
At least, until you see a dude with an Eagles tattoo on his shoulder and a neon cocktail called “Orange Jawn” promoted at the bar.
From $700 to free
This “exclusive” swim club — which is less about swimming, and more about flirting, tanning and bragging rights — is not a newcomer to the Philly bar scene.
Over the past seven years, it’s been known alternately as Arrow Swim Club, North Shore Beach Club and Monarch Philly.
The price to become a member of the urban getaway has shifted quite a bit as the various ownership changes played out. It was once as high as $700 or more, and though it did offer lower day-visiting rates, the membership last summer was going for $350 per person.
However, in this current iteration, memberships are entirely free. Members can also bring an unlimited amount of guests so long as the guests abide by the rules and pay the day-fee (typically $30 on weekends, $10 on weekdays).
How is the current management (the same team behind Vesper Sports Club in Rittenhouse) affording costs to maintain a 30,000-gallon heated pool, bungalows, daybeds, locker rooms, restrooms with chandeliers, a sundeck, outdoor showers, three bars, DJs and photographers? Even though the cocktails, VIP services and the food is pricey (as is expected at any upscale club), it’s probably not enough to foot the bill.
The current business model seems to be clout = coin.
Because there’s a caveat to free membership. In order to gain access, you need to supply your Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles, as well as a “clear and recent picture of your face.”
You also have the option to indicate whether or not you’re in the hospitality industry.
Access is easy
I decided to investigate this influencer-access club from the inside.
Automated emails after I applied told me the process was “long” and “rigorous,” but it took less than 48 hours for my membership to be approved. My qualifications? I work for a media outlet and I am decent looking. That’s all it took, folks.
However, when I took the time to sit, poolside, to chat with people at Vesper on a July weekend, it was much less Insta Baddies and Soundcloud Rappers, and more normies.
There was a level of chillness, and I came away realizing that members at Vesper are, for the most part, average and unintimidating human beings.
Exploring the scene
Members I met were all shapes and sizes, from all sorts of career paths, and diverse in ethnic identity. No one was overtly flaunting money, no one was eye-rolling at my Target two-piece. Given the number of empty VIP spots throughout the club, not many were willing to shell out the big bucks — most were just exploring the scene, like me.
Brett, a 27-year-old who works for a building company, comes to Vesper every Sunday and usually brings a buddy with him. He loves Sundays, because “everyone just kinda chills, and I’ve never seen any problems.”
There is, he points out, the issue of an unfinished bar on the sundeck.
Ryan, who works in finance, and Kerri, who works in “nightlife,” try to come at least once a week. They, like Brett, prefer the crowd on Sundays — when it’s reportedly less crowded.
There is definitely some hard partying going on, though.
Vesper’s Facebook page lists plenty of events on Sundays, with various DJs and themes. And yeah, in the bathroom, one girl puked in the stall next to mine, and two other girls made an exchange after one said: “uuuuummm do you have any cocaine on you?”
Yep, this is a club all right.
On the whole, people were more interested in cooling off, socializing, snapping pics of their friends and dancing in the pool (note, not swimming — never swimming) with frosé in hand.
Membership is full — sort of
Honestly? In this reporter’s opinion, there was a lot to like about the place.
The music was varied but also not overly obnoxious or loud. You could truly mingle here, and even opt to read or nap if you were swift enough to snag a (free!) daybed on the sundeck. People were friendly and willing to engage (when not in the bathroom sniffing or puking), servers were helpful, the drinks weren’t watered-down and the pool was clean.
Vesper is technically at maximum capacity and is not accepting new applicants at this time.
But that’s apparently not actually the case. Ally and Sarah, both 23-year-old roommates who work in software and in HR, took a shot at applying and both got accepted within days at the end of June.
If you’re looking for a booze-equipped swim spot without leaving the city, you could do worse, despite the influencer sheen. After all, a party is what you make it.