The Playboy Club initially was a chain of nightclubs and resorts owned and operated by Playboy Enterprises. The first club opened at 116 E. Walton Street in downtown Chicago, Illinois, United States, on February 29, 1960. Each club generally featured a Living Room, a Playmate Bar, a Dining Room, and a Club Room. Members and their guests were served food and drinks by Playboy Bunnies, some of whom were featured in Playboy magazine. The clubs offered name entertainers and comedians in the Club Rooms, and local musicians and the occasional close-up magician in the Living Rooms. Starting with the London and Jamaica club locations, the Playboy Club became international in scope. In 1991, the club chain became defunct. In 2006, a few new clubs were re-launched, and as of 2012, there are operating clubs in Macao and Cancun. The Las Vegas club closed on June 4, 2012. In April 2014 it was announced that Commerce Casino, in Los Angeles, California, will be opening a Playboy Lounge consisting of gaming tables and Playboy Bunny cocktail waitresses.
The first Playboy Club opened in Chicago in 1960, and later there were clubs in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco, Boston, Des Moines, Kansas City, and St. Louis. There were Playboy Club resorts in Jamaica, New Jersey, and elsewhere. The last American location before Playboy Club Las Vegas opened was Lansing, Michigan, located in the Hilton Hotel, which closed in 1988. International Clubs existed until the 1991 closing of the Manila, Philippines Club located in the Silahis International Hotel. Now, International Clubs again exist with locations in Macao and Cancun. Manila was the only Club ever to be featured in Architectural Digest. During the last three months of 1961, more than 132,000 people visited the Chicago club, making it the busiest night club in the world. Playboy Club membership became a status symbol. Only 21% of all key holders ever went to a club. At $25.00 per year per membership, Playboy earned $25 million for every 1,000,000 members. This revenue stream was critical to the development of the Playboy empire.
The Rabbit-headed metal Playboy key (supplanted by a plastic key-card in 1966) was required for admission to a club. They were presented to the Door Bunny. Through most of the years, a strict dress code was enforced.
In 1965, Hugh Hefner sent Victor Lownes to London to open Playboy's British casinos, following legalization of gambling in the United Kingdom. Gaming income from these casinos enabled Playboy to continue throwing money at financially disastrous clubs, theaters, resorts, record companies, and film investments. The magazine's income was modest compared to that from these casinos. In 1981, the casino at 45 Park Lane was the most profitable casino in the world, and the British casinos contributed $32 million to the corporation. Playboy showed a total profit of $31 million that year, meaning the rest of the empire made a net loss of $1 million. However, in that year, Victor Lownes was fired, and gambling licenses were not renewed, thereby cutting off Playboy's biggest source of income and creating a financial crisis that would only be solved by enormous changes within the empire.
The Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin had a ski slope and was one of the first to install a chair lift. The Lighter Side Trio entertained at all of the Playboy Clubs from 1972 to 1975, led by Joe DiPietro, with Douglas Brett and Charles Raimond.
On October 6, 2006, Playboy opened a new Playboy Club in Las Vegas, Nevada. The new club at The Palms, with its prominent neon bunny head, has casinos, bars, and a restroom with pictures of Playmates on the walls. The club closed in June 2012.
Australian women were invited to Sydney to audition for the iconic Playboy Bunny role and for positions as singers and dancers at the Playboy Club. A minimum of five women will be chosen to travel to Macao for a six-month contract as a Playboy Bunny. The Macao Playboy Club opened on November 24, 2010.
In October 2010 it was announced that a new Playboy Club in London was to be opened on the site of the old Rendezvous Mayfair Casino 14 Old Park Lane. It was opened on June 4, 2011. The 17,000sq ft property spread over two floors has been designed by London-based architects Jestico + Whiles. The club features a casino, cigar terrace, gentleman's tonic, sports bar ("The Player's Lounge"), night club ("The Cottontail Lounge"), cocktail bar under the direction of Salvatore Calabrase, and a fine dining restaurant under the reins of Iron Chef Judy Joo. Along the stair-walls, a row of lenticular portraits are hung winking and smiling at guests as they walk by.
While the ("The Cottontail Lounge") closed in August 2012, it has re-opened in October 2012 as "baroque" by the son of Salvatore Calabrese, Gerry Calabrese. The building has undergone extensive refurbishment to be transformed into a sumptuous space. The decor is sophisticated and extravagant; featuring golds, ruby reds, magenta pinks, heavy drapes, Louis XIV chairs and antique mirrors. Baroque is finished to a high standard with a theatrical, flamboyant atmosphere. The round cabaret-style tables, designed by CID Interiors, sport crisp white tablecloths.
In November 2012, Playboy (PB) Lifestyle chief Sanjay Gupta announced that Playboy would open its first club in India in Candolim Beach, Goa in December 2012. It was planned to be 22,000 square feet (2,000 m2) and be the first beach location for Playboy globally. In April 2013, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that Playboy's proposal would not be considered by his government on "technical grounds". Parrikar, told the state assembly on 15 April 2013 that licences to run beach shacks (which would include the proposed Playboy club) could only be granted to individuals, and not companies. Women's groups and conservative politicians in the state had previously criticized the proposed club accusing it of promoting "vulgarity". However, the decision only barred the opening of a Playboy beach shack, and not a conventional Playboy club in the state. After the Goa club, PB Lifestyle planned to open clubs in in Hyderabad and Mumbai. PB Lifestyle is a Mumbai-based Indian firm with rights to the Playboy brand. They plan to establish eight Playboy Clubs over three years and have 120 clubs, bars and cafes in 10 years. The fashion bars and cafes will target a wider, younger audience. Entry to clubs will be through membership only. Applicant must fall under the A1 segment of the Socio Economic Classification (SEC) system. PB Lifestyle will adapt the Playboy brand to suit India's obscenity laws which ban material deemed "lascivious or appealing to prurient interests". Under the same laws, Playboy and other adult magazines are banned. Designer Mohini Tadikonda has altered the original Playboy Bunnies uniform to satisfy India's obscenity laws, by adding long drapes of chiffon to the bottom half. However, the upper half, the satin bustier, remains tight and revealing. The traditional corset will be replaced with a two-piece costume, comprising a one-shoulder top, a bare midriff and a sheer, full-length skirt with a split. The ears, bow-ties and fluffy tails will remain.
Locations and opening dates
- Chicago (February 29, 1960)
- Miami (May 20, 1961)
- New Orleans (October 13, 1961)
- St. Louis (October 16, 1962)
- New York (December 8, 1962)
- Phoenix (December 19, 1962)
- Detroit (December 28, 1963)
- Manila, Philippines (January 1964)
- Baltimore (1964)
- Kansas City (June 13, 1964)
- Cincinnati (September 16, 1964)
- Los Angeles (December 31, 1964)
- Ochos Rios Club, Hotel, & Resort, Jamaica (January 4, 1965)
- Boston (February 26, 1965)
- Atlanta (March 6, 1965)
- San Francisco (November 13, 1965)
- London Casino & Club, U.K. (July 1, 1966)
- Montreal, Canada (July 15, 1967)
- Denver (December 9, 1967)
- Lake Geneva Club, Hotel, & Resort, Wisconsin (May 6, 1968)
- Playboy Towers, Chicago (November 1, 1970)
- Miami Plaza Club, Hotel, & Resort (December 22, 1970)
- Great Gorge Club, Hotel, & Resort, New Jersey (December 22, 1971)
- Clermont Club, London, U.K. (1972; not strictly a Playboy Club but non-costumed Bunnies did work there)
- Portsmouth, U.K. (December 1972)
- Manchester, U.K. (December 13, 1973)
- Tokyo, Japan (December 9, 1976)
- Dallas (July 27, 1977)
- Osaka, Japan (February 1, 1978)
- Bahamas (April 11, 1978)
- Nagoya, Japan (July 16, 1979)
- Sapporo, Japan (April 25, 1980)
- Atlantic City Hotel, Casino, & Club (April 14, 1981)
- Buffalo (April 24, 1981)
- St. Petersburg, Florida (May 8, 1981)
- Lansing (September 17, 1981)
- San Diego (December 17, 1981)
- Columbus, Ohio (December 7, 1982)
- Des Moines (March 12, 1984)
- Omaha (May 18, 1984)
- Rhodes, Greece (April 2, 1999)
- Las Vegas (October 6, 2006) – Closed June 2, 2012
- Kuopio, Finland (September 22, 2008)
- Beirut (April, 2011)
- Cologne (August, 2012)
- Los Angeles (Playboy Gaming Lounge, with Playboy Bunny Cocktail Waitresses. Scheduled to open 2014)
Playboy Clubs in popular culture
- The 1985 TV movie A Bunny's Tale, starring Kirstie Alley, was based on writer and future feminist leader Gloria Steinem's 1963 article for Huntington Hartford's Show magazine, a critical account of her time working as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club.
- The 2000 TV movie, A Tale of Two Bunnies (aka Price of Beauty) starring Marina Black and Julie Condra, tells the story of two girls who try out as Playboy Bunnies in 1961.
- In the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Bond replaces his wallet with that of the recently killed diamond smuggler Peter Franks to confuse his contact, Tiffany Case. When she opens the wallet she finds Bond's Playboy Club Member Card, which she uses to identify the man on the floor.
- The film, Hefner; an Unauthorized Biography, includes leotard-wearing women being trained as hostesses in a Playboy Club.
- In Mad Men Season 4, episode 10 ("Hands and Knees"), Lane Pryce (who is a member) takes his father and Don Draper to dinner at the Playboy Club in New York City and introduces them to his "chocolate bunny" girlfriend, Toni.
- In season one, episode two of Swingtown, the characters visit the Playboy Club.
- September 2011 saw the premiere of NBC's The Playboy Club, a television series focusing on the employees and patrons of the first Playboy Club, located in Chicago. A storm of protests against the sexuality in the TV show and low ratings led to the show's cancellation on October 4, 2011. Reports state that Canadian TV will continue to run the show.
- "Playboy Club 40th Anniversary Celebration". Explayboybunnies.com. 1960-02-29. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Luxury Hotels Mayfair, 45 Park Lane, Hotels Hyde Park London". 45parklane.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Playboy Club Opens in Las Vegas".
- "Playboy Club at Las Vegas' Palms Casino Closes". USA Today. June 4, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- "Playboy Club Sands Macao Bunny Auditions In Sydney".
- "New Playboy club to open in London". The Daily Telegraph. October 19, 2010.
- Milton Bayer. "Exclusive Members' Club with Casino, Cocktails, Playboy Bunny Hosts and more". Playboy Club London. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Playboy bounces back into London". UK Construction magazine. 13 october 2011.
- "Playboy Club London – The Bunny Ears return". The Handbook. May 12, 2011.
- "India to get First Playboy Club in Goa". BBC News. November 1, 2012.
- "Bunny Hop: Playboy Comes to India". Wall Street Journal. November 2, 2012.
- "India gets ready for first Playboy club, with bunnies". NDTV. November 1, 2012.
- "India Gets Ready for First Playboy Club". CNN. December 21, 2012.
- NBC.com – The Playboy Club