Extensive Changes Coming to Exclusive Club 33 at Disneyland

Written by MiceChat Staff. Posted in Breaking News, Disney History, Disney News, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort

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Published on September 03, 2013 at 3:00 pm with 79 Comments

We first ran this article on July 30th, 2013, at the time we heard that construction on Club 33 would start at some point after the beginning of the Fiscal year (which starts in the Fall). While that time table holds, the actual closing of the portion of the club currently used by the members will not happen until January 6th, 2014. The club will close for an estimated 6 months. (UPDATED: September 3, 2013)

Hiding quietly behind unassuming doors near the exit of Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is perhaps the most exclusive and historic dining experience in any theme park in the world. Club 33 is a members only restaurant which dates back to 1967 and is the only place inside Disneyland park where you can order an alcoholic beverage during regular operating hours.

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Walt Disney wanted a place he could entertain dignitaries and corporate sponsors in grand Disney style. Sadly, Walt never saw this project completed as he passed away before New Orleans Square was complete. However, the entire club clearly embodies the spirit of Disneyland’s founder and his quest for excellence in creating unique experiences. Club 33 is special. Anyone who has ever dined there can attest to the fact that there is nothing else quite like it in the theme park world.

In a somewhat controversial a move, current Disney management is about to transform the club with a massive expansion and renovation. It is expected that sometime after the start of the fiscal year (which begins in October), expansion will begin in areas adjacent to the club. Club 33 itself will close for a 6 month refurbishment on January 6th. At which time, the facility will be dramatically altered and expanded.

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The primary objective of the renovation will be to add a large new lounge in the space above the French Market restaurant (near the New Orleans Train Station).

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The Jazz themed lounge will be similar to the new Club 1901 in Disney California Adventure and will only be available to a subset of club members who have paid for the privilege of having a drink here. The new space will nearly double the overall footprint of Club 33.

But that’s just the start of the club’s transformation. The facility has long suffered from two awkward issues: a kitchen which is far too small, and inadequate ADA access to the dining room (which is on the 2nd floor of New Orleans Square).  Both of these issues will be addressed, but they will come at a price.

To expand the kitchen, the current Trophy Room will be closed to guests and become a brand new kitchen facility.

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Interesting artifacts currently line the walls of the Trophy Room.


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The Trophy Room is frequently used for special events and parties and was famous for having microphones built into the chandeliers so servers could anticipate the needs of their guests, though it is said that the microphones were never actually used. There is also an anamatronic speaking vulture in the corner of the room, also which was never used. The Trophy Room has been used for hundreds of special events and parties over the years and many members lament its passing.

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The current entry area for the club, behind the door at 33 Royal Street (just next to the Blue Bayou and the exit to Pirates of the Caribbean) will no longer be used to gain access to the club. The beautiful glass enclosed antique French lift elevator, which takes guests from the reception area to the dining room upstairs, was not ADA compliant as it requires guests to take a step up to reach the loading platform. Additionally, the reception area is inconveniently located below what will soon become a backstage area. As a result, the new entrance to the club will be built in what is currently the lovely Court Des Anges (Court of Angels). It is expected that the French lift will be moved to this location. It is unknown at this time if this famous courtyard (which has played host to many marriage proposals over the years) will remain open to regular guests once the new Club 33 entry is relocated there. But it is rumored that the courtyard will become the exclusive entry for the club and its members.

If you take your annual family Christmas card photo in Angels Court, you might want to take this year’s photo now.

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The entry room as it is today, the elevator on the right.

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Have you ever wondered what’s at the top of those stairs in the Court Des Anges?

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The Court of Angels stairway leads to several corridors on the right that connect to the main Club 33 rooms. But if you turn left and walk through the corridors, you get to a huge store room on the second level above the French Market restaurant and perfume shop. That is where Club 33 stores all of their wine, champagne and liquor and it’s a large high-ceiling room that fills up that building’s entire footprint. The corridor that leads to this large room also leads to several smaller rooms along the way, and those are used as green rooms for the musicians and performers that have long called New Orleans Square home. This space above French Market, and the adjoining corridors, are what will be used to open up more space for the Club, including the Jazz themed lounge.

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At the top of the stairs is a hallway which leads to office and storage which will soon become the new jazz club.

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The storerooms and green rooms will have to be relocated elsewhere, perhaps just beyond the berm and NOS train station where a mish-mash of old trailers and a small horticulture staging area now exists.

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The current main dining room will likely be spared, at least that’s the hope of club members who would be crushed to lose this beloved and historic room which has hosted stars, dignitaries, Imagineers, Club members and their guests over the years.

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It’s less likely that the makeshift bar in the hallway leading to the dining room will be preserved.

 

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The Disneyland Resort project management group is gearing up for construction on that second level of New Orleans Square for Fiscal 2014 (which actually starts in October), and Disneyland’s Store Operations group is prepping for disruptions to some area stores during that construction. The club itself will not close to members until January 6th and will remain closed for an estimated 6 months.

Have you been lucky enough to dine in Disneyland’s swanky Club 33? Are you excited to hear about the expansion or concerned about the loss of the Trophy Room and classic entry portal at 33 Royal Street?

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79 Comments

Comments for Extensive Changes Coming to Exclusive Club 33 at Disneyland are now closed.

  1. Figures, the one time I was able to go to Club 33, is the month they’re starting the refurb

    • Wren, we don’t know the exact date for the refurb. The anonymous writer of this column was only informed “after the start of the fiscal year.” You might still get lucky.

      • I can confirm that the refurb won’t happen until January 2014. We were told that the club will be open all thru Christmas for Candlelight and we would be able to make reservations until December 31th of this year. You still have time!

      • @Avenue

        I really hope thats true =/, think we were scheduled to go mid october, still waiting to confirm since our friend who’s getting us in was waiting to hear from the Club itself regarding the refurb

  2. I have never been able to get excited about Club 33. As lavish as it may be, since it is closed to the general public as invitation only, in my mind, it may as well not exist. Oh wait, it doesn’t exist for me, I have never been invited.

  3. Well Dusty, with all this news about the coming changes I think it’s about time we put together a dinner party. Lets chat SOON! ;)

  4. The loss of the Trophy Room makes me even more grateful to have dined in there once. I hope at some point Dustin and I will be able to visit again and see the changes for ourselves.

  5. I think a large part of this move was planned when they began altering the Club 33 membership when they added DCA’s 1901. Expanding the number of members and limiting the free Disneyland gate media and parking perks irked a lot of the current members, most of which may not have even cared about the 1901 add-on.

    So with the better kitchen facilities, extra seating for the expanded membership, and general freshening up of the facilities, it may make for a better experience. My one and only trip there was exciting because I finally got in, and I always wanted to go. (Walt’s appartment and the Lily Belle are next on my bucket list- and easier now to aquire with the pricey Walk in Walt’s footsteps tour).

    The food was nice, but not as good as Napa Rose in my opinion, so hopefully it will get better and quicker with the new facilities, not to mention be able to handle a larger crowd. I saw the old kitchen before the slight expansion of a few extra feet when they built the Dream Suite, and it was pitifull! About the size of a small apartment kitchen!

    But I am worried that the new entrance will take over the Court of Angels, although they have used it for events like the Pirates and merchandise so they may not want to loose that. If that does happend, one more wonderfull detail of Disneyland will be forever lost to the elite VIP. Just like the Disney Gallery into the Dream Suite (which was really never meant for the average guest anyway) and the way Club 33 always has been. And I suppose the mysterious “Door 33″ will be no more, and moved across the street.

  6. when we were kids, we used to ring what we believed to be the bell to club 33–next to the sign– and run away. that was fun. i haven’t looked in years to see if there still is a bell. i hope they keep the original street level door and sign, even if it goes nowhere. as some have said here–probably will never get in to eat there myself–but in a way, that makes the imagination of what it’s like there sweeter.

  7. I have been fortunate enough to Dine at Club 33 twice. I had always hoped I might be able to visit a third time. It doesn’t seem that important anymore….

  8. I think we should relax about the Court’s access after the remodel: no one feels blocked from the entrance to Cathay Circle and yet the entrance to 1901 is there and is always politely guarded. I think it’s a reasonable guess that the court will stay open the way it is now and only Club 33 members will be allowed to walk up the stairs.

  9. I actually heard about this from a cast member working at the Christmas ornament shop back in March. Apparently that store is actually going to serve as the new check in area. I was wondering whether there was truth to that as I’d heard it no where else.

    I’ve only ever got to poke my head into the foyer on a tour. Though I got to walk through its kitchen once when I went with my wheelchair bound grandmother to tour the Disney Gallery back before the Dream Suite. It was the only way up for her. I have a friend who supposedly was given a grand tour of the place.

  10. I’m a real Disneyfan. I really care for the parks and the way they are presented means alot to me. But I’m not rich and will never be able to visit a place like Club 33. I think I’d rather see them bulldozer the place and add some attractions that we fans can enjoy. They can do whatever they want with Club 33, it will never have anything to do with me anyway.

    • Wow. I haven’t logged in here for a couple years. But, your post drove me to do so. What if families can’t even afford to go to Disneyland – should the park be bulldozed also? Yes, according to your logic. I think you would also want to demolish the dream suite too. You want the club demolished because you are a “fan” but, I am not sure of what part of Disney you are a fan.

      Secondly, the club is above the main access area of the park. it resides above other restaurants and walkways. Its’ existence doesn’t bother the main flow of attractions, shops and other restaurants.

      The club is a special place, and a “holy grail” for some fans to see (ie Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour) The club is part of the history of Walt and the park.

      I don’t look forward to the “changes” but understand that it must happen. Some folks don’t realize that the whole Club 33 concept recently almost hit the cutting room floor. The membership changes were needed to keep the Club 33 concept viable. With those changes and greater expectations the Club then needed an expansion – and a place for Marcel to create.
      (great post by moviela below BTW)

  11. If you go back to the original intent of the Club 33, it arose simply because Walt “raised the roof” so many times for the Pirate load area that the space was created. During that time the “neat lines and lettering” boys (architects) proposed a suite for Walt and Roy that included a dining area to accommodate parties larger than the Fire House could bear for their personal and corporate entertaining.

    Walt changed the idea somewhat so the dining area was to be used by park lessees to entertain their guests. It was for business schmoozing and as was the custom at the time, alcohol was all but expected. He and his brother really did not want to allow guests overnight in the park because of all the “hub bub outside” when the park was closed. He did not feel guests of his should see backstage in that manner. He slept (rarely) in the Fire House, and in the bunk on the Mark Twain. Others would be put up at Jack’s (Wrather) place across the street.

    The kitchen was adequate at the time for the intended use, and was in the early days quite often just a finishing area while line cooks in the Blue Bayou did the heavy lifting.

    Membership was small, and staff knew most by name. There was a much more personal level of service than exists today. I had a reputation for corned beef on rye, and it was always ready for me without asking if I made a reservation.

    Those days are gone, and expansion is necessary to handle the increase in membership. The first year fees are not out of line with other exclusive private clubs, and none of them has Disneyland outside.

    If you want a real exclusive Disney club experience, try to wrangle an invite to the Penthouse on the original Animation Building in Burbank.

    • Your comment was so informative, and now I’m hungry for a good corned beef on rye….

      I was lucky to go once as part of a large online Disney fan site, but was too freaked out to really relax and enjoy it. I was much too excited to absorb it all. It felt good to be there and it had rarified air.

      LoveStallion, you crack me up. :)

    • I remember when Vice Presidents at WED all had memberships to Club 33. Of course there weren’t as many VP’s then as there are today at WDI. The WED VP’s could let WED team members in on their membership which was a real perk to an Imagineer on a low designers salary. That was until outside of Disney Members started to complain, and they stopped this garnered reward. If Disney would allow their retired WED Graduates and Imagineers access at least once a year, as they do park admittance with a silver pass each year that would greatly be appreciated by their Veterans who gave for their company.

  12. I am truly grateful and glad to have dined in Club 33 this year, before they make these changes- thanks to an incredibly generous and kind fellow mice chatter. Will be interesting to hear about how the new changes are received and then to see how they look.

  13. [...] Story 4: Club Refurb [...]

  14. I was able to dine there once, in October 2011, as part of the Carolwood Pacific’s annual tour and outing. It was an all-day affair that included a backstage tour of the “roundhouse” (which is actually rectangular) where they maintenance the locomotives and rolling stock topped by the association meeting in Club 33 in the evening. Talk about an awesome day!

    The dinner speaker was from WDI talking about some of the new features then taking place across the park at DCA, specifically the recreation of the “Red Car” trolley line. We were nearly four hours in Club 33 all together. In fact, the park was closed when by the time the meeting broke up and we had to be escorted to Main Street where the tail end of the crowds were leaving.

    The whole experience was a bit mind numbing. The overwhelming sensation of “special-ness” comes from within if you’re a Disney fan. You know about the legend that’s grown up around the place and to be inside is something that sets you apart from other park-goers. I agree with some of the posters above that if you weren’t a Disneyphile, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. The current layout is an odd combination of cramped corridors but long walks to get around. If you didn’t know the history, you’d think it was cobbled together We were packed into the main dining room like sardines, but it may have just been the size of the group.

    It will be interesting to see if the new version can maintain this legendary sense, especially with the change in entrance. As several above have noted, it was seeing that big, ornate “33″ on the door and knowing (or imagining) what was behind it that made it so appealing and compelling to those in the know. With a facade that is overtly advertising it, even if you can’t get in, will it still seem so special to the average fan?

    - Jack

  15. Here’s a quote from Andry Casto’s September 2 Disneyland update:

    “It’s spaces like the Court of Angels that allow guests to explore and discover; it’s these little corners of quiet discovery that make the entire Disneyland experience believable. Being able to take an unexpected turn around the corner from the main path into a hidden courtyard makes places like New Orleans Square feel real and lived in. Places like the Royal Courtyard (which was turned into an overflow Pirates of the Caribbean shop in 2006) and the Court of Angels are part of the reason why New Orleans Square feels so authentic and hits such a strong nerve with so many guests. So, while Disney may see the empty space in the parks as opportunities for increased profits, they’d do well to take a moment to consider why the original park designers included these spaces. There’s immense value in these spaces that Christmas ornaments, Pirates of the Caribbean t-shirts, or Club 33 membership dues can never recoup. These spaces are a large part of the magic that Disney endlessly touts in its marketing but so often fails to understand and respect.”

    Hopefully much of the Court of Angels will still be open to all guests, and the Royal Courtyard will just be a nice space with some benches and nothing for sale.

    • No, that’s not what I’m hearing. The whole courtyard is closed to guests. It will be the new reception area for Club 33.

      Why is this post reposted? Where’s the new information?

      • For the same reason the Gettysburg Address has been “reposted” frequently for over 150 years. Because I thought some might have missed this eloquence in Andy’s update. Vive Castro!

      • This is being reposted to keep the pot stirred.