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NEW YORK — Frederick Lesort is sitting in the only finished section of his new club, Frederick’s, which just happens to be the very posh, much-ballyhooed private members’ room. (In case you haven’t heard, it’s accessible by a state-of-the-art fingerprint scanning system Lesort spotted on an E network home special one day.) With just four days to go before tonight’s kickoff party thrown by Another Magazine for covergirl Natalie Portman, the rest of the club — that is to say, the nonmembers area — looks more like a disaster area. Drills buzz, workmen paint walls and move appliances and plastic sheeting covers the Forties-inspired decor of caramel carpets, black-walnut tables and plush furniture. Every surface seems to be coated in a fine white dust.

This story first appeared in the September 14, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But Lesort, and his brother and co-owner, Laurent, are the polished portrait of calm in spite of the maelstrom swirling around them. After all, these coiffed Frenchmen are old pros at this, having invested more than 20 years in the city’s restaurant and nightlife business with such memorable boîtes as Lemon, Vandam, Opia and the old Frederick’s lounge, formerly located on East 64th Street.

With the new Frederick’s, located next to the Paris Theater on East 58th Street, the brothers are trying to inject New York nightlife, which Frederick deems “pathetic,” with an air of sophistication, service and exclusivity.

“Unless you’re 18 with ripped-out jeans, there is no place to go for a nice drink in a civilized environment,” laments Frederick, ticking off his list of pet peeves: crowds, bad lighting, mandatory bottle service and, worst of all, those 27-year-old clowns with big egos manning the door.

Frederick’s, he insists, will be an apartment setting, with private members vetted by the Lesort brothers, as the dinner guests. “The clientele we are dealing with are looking for a niche where they can go and hide and be with a certain group of people,” says Frederick. “Creating membership ensures that.” So far, 200 of “that certain group” have signed on, including Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, Dylan Lauren, Lulu de Kwiatkowski, Todd Meister, Harvey Weinstein and Frédéric Fekkai.

Criteria for joining are a bit hazy. Members, who pay an $800 annual fee and a $250 initiation fee, are ages 18-77 and not just Euro, insists Frederick. “We have South Americans, Americans and Europeans. You don’t have to be tall, good-looking and wealthy,” he adds. “I’ve created a place that’s like my home, where I feel comfortable.”

Once a member, privileges include concierge services, stashing a bottle of liquor at the bar for up to a month, one-way mirrors that look out onto the nonmembers’ club, and a three-guest-per-fingerprinted-member rule. Pan-Asian tapas will be served in both rooms, and the private sushi room features a tasting menu.

So, how does it differ from that other club, Soho House?

Because it’s not all private, “you’re not going to see the same group of 200 people every night,” says Frederick. “I think most uptown people are fed up with the service downtown. My clients are mature. They are used to a certain way of life.”

— Alison Burwell