One of South Lake Union’s newest restaurants is one you can’t go to — it’s inside The Collective, a new private club custom-concepted for New Seattle, including a climbing wall and a device-free hammock zone.

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HIGH TIDE, one of the newest restaurants in Seattle’s Amazonia, is ready and waiting. It’s upscale in a familiar urbane way — suede banquettes and a polished concrete floor, huge windows and crystal-clear sphere light fixtures, with shiny black subway tile as a tiny twist on the currently ubiquitous white ones. The menu hews to the latest rethinking of the restaurant as an all-day, have-it-your-way affair, including the requisite “PNW Cheese + Charcuterie,” grain bowl, hand-ground burger, grilled daily fish and steak frites. The bar, with lots more comfy seating, boasts a beer nerd’s dream of a tap list, via special arrangement with all-star local craft breweries including Holy Mountain and Urban Family.

The space at High Tide flows effortlessly, all open-air, from the suitable-for-impressing-a-client dining area to the flat-screens-showing-sports bar zone to a capacious lounge reminiscent of a higher-end chain hotel lobby. Here, you can eat, drink, hang out, have coffee, work, play pingpong on a glossy table designed by a local artist, etc. — whatever you want to do in such an au courant “third place” space.

Except you can’t — not unless you’re a member. High Tide is part of South Lake Union’s brand-new private club called The Collective, and membership has its privileges. There’s the High Tide space — about 8,000 square feet as described above, along with both standing and sitting workspots; “productivity rocks” for indicating whether you’d like service or prefer no interruption; retro-looking outlets galore for device charging; and curtained alcoves for listening to or making music.

The Collective

“An urban clubhouse for the mind, body + soul”

400 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle; 206-247-7190; collectiveseattle.com; members only

Then there’s Alpenglow, located on the other side of the lobby’s free-standing cafe — approximately 7,000 square feet of much, much more. Here, members of The Collective can write their name on a rock and add it to a members’ rock pile, then play the game cornhole, or gaze into the artist-in-residence’s aquarium-style studio. Alpenglow’s seating options include reclining with Pendleton blankets and/or Gibson guitars in the indoor “campfire circle”; hanging in a cushioned, egg-shaped basket-chair; or sprawling on the massive hammock that is the technology-free zone. There are also couches, and ottomans, and cushions that look like big granite rocks, and a vintage ski-resort lift chair. Those not inclined to lounge may climb in the “boutique” (read: small) bouldering gym. Should the member work up a sweat, private showers with embedded speakers to plug music into await, with gender-neutral bathrooms across the way.

Alexandra Katz (standing), director of membership at The Collective, a new private club custom-concepted for New Seattle, talks to members beneath hanging dowels that represent the depths of parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
Alexandra Katz (standing), director of membership at The Collective, a new private club custom-concepted for New Seattle, talks to members beneath hanging dowels that represent the depths of parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

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The Collective’s website describes it as “An urban clubhouse for the mind, body + soul,” a place “where locals can craft a home and community based on common interests and shared ventures.” The verbiage is plentiful. The space “acts as both a basecamp and a launchpad to foster interaction and meet the dynamic needs of The Collective’s members and their endeavors … [it] generates a palpable energy that sparks creativity and drives positive member experiences.” Activities “are strategically planned to generate dialogue and encourage informal and enjoyable interactions.” A solemn, high-production video decries “community deserts” and extols the virtues of The Collective’s intentions, which include defining the still-developing culture of South Lake Union. If you listen carefully, it sounds like high-concept, aspirational code for a very simple offering: the thawing of the infamous Seattle Freeze. The food, the drink and the activities provide a built-in social set, while the space(s) provide a multifarious social setting.

CHARTER MEMBERSHIP in The Collective costs $100 a month, with a $100 joining fee. At some point this summer, monthly dues will go up to $150/month. (Local climbing gyms, for what it’s worth, come in at the $60/month range.) Members can bring in up to five guests at a time, which actually helps the bottom line: The Collective’s business model depends on both dues and sales of food and drink, which are priced right along the lines of a similar Seattle restaurant for everyone who comes. (Most events at The Collective are free to members and guests.)

Staff set a clubhouse tone. Everyone’s nearly eerily nice, and you’ll never feel alone by yourself at the High Tide bar, where the bartenders’ friendly, low-key banter cross-pollinates into actual patron interaction. “The burgers are so good,” someone you don’t know at all might say to you. “You’re going to enjoy it!” Meanwhile, people who would traditionally be called the management team — here they have titles like “Experience Ambassador” — roam The Collective, making “engaging” look effortless. They’re still figuring out how people are using the space, the preternaturally amiable Experience Ambassador Chris Wentlandt told me one evening, before chatting with others sitting at the bar, then helping set up for a spirited session of food trivia in the High Tide space.

Todd Sims makes use of the climbing wall at The Collective, a new private club custom-concepted for New Seattle. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
Todd Sims makes use of the climbing wall at The Collective, a new private club custom-concepted for New Seattle. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Events at The Collective include the likes of Yoga for Climbing, winery-and-farm dinners, classes on terrarium-making, Meditation + Tea Tasting, live music, a discussion hosted by the League of Women Voters on “talking Local Civics to get a better understanding of Seattle’s politics.” If you hang in one of the woven-basket egg-chairs, ensconced among soft woolen pillows, prior to the “monthly(ish)” podcast of Dent:Live — which comes from “a community of entrepreneurs, technologists, executives, investors, and creatives who are driven to ‘put a dent in the universe’” — it becomes clear that there’s more to the event than the event: namely, networking. Overheard: “My nonprofit is kind of morphing a lot, and I want to incubate some for-profits…” “I think I have your contact info from before…” “Are you Microsoft?” “Yeah.” “Are you a member?”

There’s a haleness, a sense of sincerity and belonging to The Collective that can feel congregational. If you’re standing around in the middle of High Tide looking slightly at sea, don’t be surprised if someone asks if they can help you — just one of the members, who seem to feel as much ownership of The Collective as the staff do. Vice President of Innovation Tommy Trause, Community Ambassador Alex Mondau and Wentlandt showed me around the premises one afternoon, with Trause explaining aspects of the club with an evangelical intensity. They started, he said, from the ground up, with the idea in mind that “to make an apple pie, you have to first create the universe.” He spoke of making a third space “for the creative class,” but also of bringing “a very diverse group of people” together. “We knew,” he said, “that it had to reek of authenticity.”

The idea for The Collective had been the dream of Trause and Mondau, they noted, since they were friends growing up together in Olympia. “Alpenglow” is the name for the lovely light you sometimes see around Mount Rainier at sunset, while High Tide, as the other part of the “split base camp,” represents the Salish Sea. It sounded so authentic: two local guys making their plan for food and drink and community and climbing into reality. But the reality of The Collective took deep pockets: It is owned by Dallas-based ClubCorp, which also owns Seattle’s Columbia Tower Club, along with more golf and other private clubs across the country than any other company. Both Trause and Wentlandt have extensive experience in the world of private-club hospitality, while Mondau has an MBA.

Along with proffering the old-school club advantages of social and business connections, The Collective follows in the philanthropic footsteps of its predecessors. Mondau likens it to a latter-day Elks Lodge, with giving back to the non-Collective community happening in several ways. Nonprofits can host “events that bring people together around celebrating their work” in the space, Mondau explained, receiving a deal on rental and/or food and drink in order to “focus on fundraising.” The Collective is also building a “social impact fund” — from some retail proceeds, proceeds from specific events, and sale of art by the artist in residence — and members will vote on how the money is used. To this end, a monthly happy hour in conjunction with the Seattle Foundation and one of the club’s brewery partners will “celebrate an emerging and an established nonprofit.” The Collective also works with The World is Fun to match members with volunteer opportunities.

Jean Bezuidenhout, left, Sean Callahan and Melissa Marsh work in the cushioned, egg-shaped basket-chairs at The Collective. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
Jean Bezuidenhout, left, Sean Callahan and Melissa Marsh work in the cushioned, egg-shaped basket-chairs at The Collective. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

For ClubCorp, Mondau says, The Collective is “an experiment, for sure.” Unlike the sky-high Columbia Tower Club, with monthly dues for some approaching $300 and a dress code, Mondau explained, “It’s a private club that’s intended to be as inclusive as possible — and those two things have not always been put into one concept.” To try to achieve diversity, he said, they’ve conducted “direct outreach to groups that may not have historically been invited into membership of private clubs,” including the arts and music communities, and, via existing members, Amazon’s Black Employees Network. When it comes to the use of the term “tribes” — what The Collective chooses to call the club’s “sub-groups created by members with shared passions around specific topics” — they’ve checked, he said, with members of local Native ones, “and they’ve said it’s not offensive to them.”

On June 4, at six weeks in, The Collective counted 845 members. The list will be cut off at 2,000 to 3,000 total — they don’t want the club to feel crowded, nor “like you’re the only one here.” Is The Collective meant to be replicated? “You could call it a prototype,” Mondau said, while the website says “THE COLLECTIVE / SEATTLE NO. 01.”

At The Collective’s High Tide restaurant, the seafood escabeche has an Instagrammable architectural stack of avocado, chips and peppery sprouts on top.  (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
At The Collective’s High Tide restaurant, the seafood escabeche has an Instagrammable architectural stack of avocado, chips and peppery sprouts on top. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

SO HOW’S THE FOOD at High Tide? It’s pretty good — and notably pretty, to be “Insta-worthy,” as the website promises. A big pile of crab nachos ($16; I was The Collective’s guest, membership-wise, but paid for my food) was served on Staub cast iron; they suffered from rather hard blue-corn chips and crab getting lost in the mix, but were nice and gooey with lots of cheese and béchamel. If the seafood escabeche ($13) tasted on the bitter side, the architectural stack of avocado, chips and peppery sprouts on top was gorgeous. A big hamburger ($14), unburdened by vegetation in favor of bacon and Beecher’s Flagship cheese, was cooked perfectly, rosily medium-rare and came with a tin measuring cup of slightly too salty fries. Beignets ($9) were dense, more like cake-doughnut holes, and cinnamony instead of under a snow of powdered sugar, but still, pretty.

It’s all definitely good and good-looking enough for a client lunch, which seems to be a prime way members are using the space. And if the clients happen to be on the old-school side, a member could impress them by letting them know that The Collective’s executive chef, Juan Garcia, comes from the kitchen at the Columbia Tower Club.