Wait to get into exclusive restaurant may be longest ever at
The park plans to expand membership in its almost-mythical
Club 33, but that might come too late for some.
By Kimi Yoshino, Times
Staff Writer June 21, 2007
The wait to get a membership for
Disneyland's exclusive Club 33 is so long that wannabe members joke that the
only way to move up the list is for somebody to die.
Dale has been parked on Club 33's waiting list since 2001, and Robert
Tickell for about that long. And poor Chris Villaflor — Walt Disney Co.
informed him this month that the list is so bloated, he can't even get on
But now, there might be hope — at least a glimmer of it. Disneyland
officials said that over the next year they plan to rearrange some tables to
add seating capacity to the members-only restaurant tucked away in New
Orleans Square, identifiable only by a green door with the address: 33.
The membership, which stands at about 487, could increase to 500. Not
exactly a huge growth spurt, especially considering that the nine-year
waiting list is capped at 1,000 people.
It's so incremental that Tickell laughed hysterically when he heard the
number. "That sounds like Disney," he said. "They're very protective of that
The club, created by Walt Disney himself as a place where he could entertain
investors and business associates, didn't open until 1967, after his death.
Since then it has been visited by presidents, princes and celebrities.
The restaurant, named for its address on 33 Royal St. in the park, is so
secretive that the door remains locked and only members with a reservation
are allowed in. (The club needed an address because one was required for its
Of its 487 members, individuals slightly outnumber corporations. Corporate
memberships cost $25,000, plus $5,925 in annual fees. Individuals pay a
$9,500 initiation fee, then $3,175 annually, Disneyland Resort spokesman Bob
Aside from the exclusivity, there are other perks. Reservations for a meal
at the club include access to Disneyland for the day for those in the
member's party, though they still have to pay their meal tabs.
Members are also invited to behind-the-scenes tours and holiday events and
can request the presence of Mickey Mouse or any other Disney character at
their meals. Memberships cannot be sold, leased, transferred or bequeathed.
"This experience cannot be matched anywhere else," said Mary Niven,
Disneyland Resort's vice president of food and beverage. "Because the club
is for members and their guests only, our cast knows individual preferences
at a level that is truly unique."
Membership is limited by the capacity of the restaurant, Niven said. Even
now, members must make reservations weeks in advance. Park officials want to
make sure that members can still come when they want.
New membership slots are allocated starting at the top of the waiting list.
Dale, an Anaheim resident who operates
, a fan website, doesn't know exactly where he stands in the line.
"They really don't like to disclose to you your exact position," he said.
"It's merely, 'Well, you're near the top.' That's what I was told."
That's better than Villaflor, a 30-year-old Garden Grove resident who got
his rejection letter June 12. When he got home and saw the mail, he
excitedly ripped open the letter, only to see a brief message that due to
"overwhelming demand," Club 33 would not be adding any names to the waiting
"I started screaming, 'Why? Why? This isn't fair!" said Villaflor, who works
as a copy editor. He can't afford the pricey membership fee, but figured
that with a near-decade-long wait, he had plenty of time to save up. "If
they don't have more people, I'm never going to be on the list!"
Villaflor hasn't set foot in the club, but he's read plenty about it.
The Internet is full of myths and secrets about Club 33. Many revolve around
the Trophy Room, which incorporates microphones in each chandelier and a
vulture that can talk. Walt Disney intended to spice up dinners by having
the vulture converse with guests.
An antique glass elevator whisks people upstairs to the elegant dining room,
where gourmet meals are served. Lucky guests might catch a glimpse of a
celebrity: Elton John, Kobe Bryant and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all dined
Visitors can also buy limited-edition Club 33 souvenirs, which can't be
purchased by regular park guests. Many of the items are highly collectible.
A single blue dinner plate with the Club 33 emblem, for example, was selling
for $450 on EBay this week.
Tickell, a 55-year-old Signal Hill resident, is less interested in the
souvenirs than the experience. He's had a soft spot for Disneyland since he
was a child. On one visit, Tickell lost his wallet and $5 his mother had
given him. He reported this to her, upset and tearful.
Walt Disney himself overheard.
"About two shops down was their souvenir shop," Tickell said. "He came back
with a Mickey Mouse wallet and he put $5 in it. And he said, 'No one at
Disneyland should ever have to cry.' "
Uncle Walt can't rescue him this time. With only five or six years under his
belt, Tickell's got a long wait ahead.