The brainchild of internationally acclaimed architect and interior designer Steve Leung, and his hospitality-savvy son Nicholas Leung, Club C+ is a soon-to-be-opened private club located in the heart of Central. We speak to the latter about cigars, interior design and everything in between.
Tell me about the concept of Club C+.
C+ represents two of our core values. There’s a double meaning to this name: when pronounced in Chinese, it sounds like the word cigar, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it also means “private” or “exclusive” (私家). In a nutshell, we’re trying to create a place that is very private, with cigars, for people to enjoy.
Tell me a little bit about the design of the venue.
We wanted everything to feel very relaxing, or soft to the eyes. You can see we also have this orange film across the entire window. The sunlight is a little piercing sometimes, so this helps to diffuse the light and soften the glow. This also has the added benefit of making it feels like sunset every hour when you’re here. To me, it also feels very cinematic. We used a lot of wood, and then threw in green hints here and there for an earthier vibe. These colours are also very reflective of our background and our culture.
Were you also involved in the design aspect of the space?
I’m not from a design background. Before this project, I worked in a couple of hospitality projects, so in terms of design, I was able to have my input about the general vibe and the look and feel of how things should be. I had a lot of ideas in terms of operations, because you really have to incorporate the operation set-up within the design. It can’t just be a beautiful place; it has to be user-friendly for the entire team.
What motivated you to start Club C+?
My friends and I have been to a lot of different cigar lounges across Hong Kong, and we realised that there really aren’t a lot of places that offer a one-stop location for everything because of different licensing issues. So, we tried to solve that.
By design, we created a lot of different partitions, several zones to make sure everything complies with the licensing requirements. And because of our experiences of heading to a cigar bar and then worrying about what to eat afterwards, it was important that we had a restaurant element here.
Would it be fair to say that you are targeting mainly cigar lovers?
I wouldn’t say cigars are the only thing here, but it’s one of our biggest features. We have a close relationship with our suppliers, and we try our best to source brands that our members are looking for. We have a selection of whiskies as well.
For people who enjoy good, traditional Cantonese food, we offer very high quality, traditional Cantonese fair. Our Executive Chef Angus Chan used to work at St. Regis at Run, the Chinese restaurant; he’s a very talented young man.
Is membership based on private referral, or can anyone apply?
For the time being, we do have a referral system. We want to create a culture, a like-minded community of people who enjoy cigars, who enjoy a lifestyle like this. Ultimately, we’re more than happy to meet new people who enjoy what we love.
For each new applicant, there is a review by the board of directors, but this isn’t a very rigid process. We’re just trying to get to know more about the applicants and learn about their background and interests.
Are you able to share how many members you currently have?
Currently, we are at around 16 or 17 members who have fully committed. In fact, for the first six months, or at least until the end of this year, we’re only targeting 30 members. We’ll continue to monitor foot traffic once we’ve opened to make sure the place doesn’t get overcrowded. We’re not a massive space, so we have to set this limit.
For individual memberships, the entry fee is HK$200,000 with a HK$2,000 monthly fee on top of that. For corporate memberships, the entry fee is HK$300,000 with a HK$2,000 monthly fee.
When you’re fully open, would you allow members to book tables in advance or is it strictly walk-in?
If they want to just be here for a cigar, there’s no need for a reservation, because we don’t have to prepare anything in advance; the place is already here for them to enjoy. But, if they were to host a party, or choose to have dinner here, something more sophisticated, then definitely reservation would be required, because we’d have to prepare the ingredients accordingly. We offer a lot of customization for our dinner menu — various set menus for them to choose from that we change maybe once every month, or once every two months.
The whole club has quite a masculine vibe. Are there any women in the current membership numbers?
Yes, well, in fact, you would be surprised! We do have two or three female members at the moment. Personally, I’ve only started enjoying cigars in the past four or five years, but I can already see that the trend has changed up so much. Five years ago, it was certainly predominantly a man’s world, and right now, men are still the majority, but more and more women are starting to pick up this lifestyle. There are a lot of different cigars that are designed for, and cater to, women’s palette as well. Designs that are milder, or longer, or slimmer, more elegant.
On the other hand, the age of cigar smokers has also been evolving. Ten years ago, cigars were something that maybe your grandfather or father would enjoy. But right now, there are a lot of people in our generation, in their 30s or 40s, who are starting to enjoy this a lot, too. And really, five years ago, my friends wouldn’t ask me, okay, “let’s go out and for a cigar”, but right now, it’s happening. A little bit too often, hah.
How did you guys choose this location?
We only had this idea around September last year. Once we started thinking about it, we were just walking around places and essentially window shopping. Right off the bat we were thinking about maybe Causeway Bay, or maybe Central. So, we did a lot of walking to see which places were available. We were very lucky with this location. It’s only five or ten minutes away from a lot of the major banks and offices, but it’s also located in a cul-de-sac, so it’s also very private.
Have you worked with your dad and other projects before?
This is actually one of the first! In 2020, I was working on a project with my sister — a private kitchen. It was a bit of a family project. My sister is a lawyer-turned-chef. I did a bit with operations and the management of the venue, and we involved my father because he’s an interior designer. And even my mother, because she’s retired, she does a lot of different paintings as a hobby, and sometimes we would ask her to draw something for us, help with the menu, and so on.
How were you guys impacted by the pandemic?
Covid actually taught us to spend more time with family and friends. So it was good to have this project because we actually got the chance to talk a little more. We didn’t see each other very often, and my dad was always flying. Now that we’re all stuck in Hong Kong, it’s kind of good in that sense.
When are you targeting the opening date to be? What are the barriers between now and then?
We’re hoping that by October we would be able to open doors to the public. We’re actually still waiting for the licence; that’s why we have been taking things slowly. We’ve been using this time to make sure everything is able to run smoothly, making sure we have a solid team. Once we get the licence, we can hit the ground running.
What would be your day-to-day role as General Manager of Club C+?
As a general manager, you don’t really have a very specific job or area that you have to touch base on. But in other words, it means everything is related to what I do, whether it be services, food, or even cleaning and hygiene and licensing. It’s actually quite challenging running a restaurant or private club, because many things can happen within one day. I enjoy talking to people and meeting people, and I’m fan of food and beverage, obviously, so I’m looking forward to just spending time with our members.
Do you envision opening more Club C+ venues in different districts?
We have actually been discussing this already. There’s going to be number two, number three Club C+, but perhaps not in Hong Kong. We’re looking ahead and thinking about when travel restrictions are lifted. Maybe Shanghai, or maybe in in Tokyo.
M1, Baskerville House, 13 Duddell Street, Central, +852 2550 2022, email@example.com