The popular internet community Micechat recently announced a rumor that has been whispered about for months: Disneyland’s famous Club 33 is expected to undergo some serious renovations sometime in the fall of 2013. The renovations are said to be extensive enough to shut down the club and possibly even portions of New Orleans Square for months.
Club 33, a private restaurant which requires annual dues of many thousands of dollars, has long been a source of myth and envy among Disneyland fans and attendees, most of whom have seen no more of the club than the fancy “33” emblazoned on the wall outside of the entryway, which is located in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square next to the exit of the considerably less exclusive Blue Bayou restaurant. The club, which has an odd layout and (based on a legendary years-long waiting list) is overdue for expansion, has existed on the second story of the various storefronts and shops of New Orleans Square for over 40 years.
Originally conceptualized by Walt Disney himself as a quiet getaway to woo VIPs visiting the park, the club morphed into a private restaurant before it opened after Walts’ death. Currently, the property consists of a main dining room, a small banquet room known as the “Trophy Room” (due to the mounted butterfly collection and taxidermied wildlife that once decorated the walls), and a long corridor that contains a compact (but well-stocked) bar. A fancy replica of a French lift carries patrons from the parlor at street level up to the second floor, where all of the dining takes place. Various movie props and pieces of Disney conceptual art tastefully decorate the space.
The new layout is said to include the removal of the Trophy Room, much to the dismay of many Disneyland purists who have likely never been in the room before and now likely will never have the chance. Club 33 staff members, some of whom have worked decades in the establishment, tell tales of the animatronic vulture placed in the room which Walt planned to use to interact with the diners, as a sort of twist on his “Tiki Room” birds. A small hidden compartment behind a mirrored wall in the room would host a secret technician, who would listen in on the conversations at each table in the room via microphones concealed in the chandeliers, and then cause the vulture to speak on cue. This entire room is likely to be changed into an expanded kitchen for the new, larger restaurant, according to Micechat.
The new layout would include a lounge with space for live musicians to perform and more seating for dining, making the restaurant known as “Club” 33 feel more like an authentic club, of sorts. Currently, the place is really nothing more than a nice restaurant, but that wasn’t always the case. According to Robby Beeman, who was a waiter at the club back in the ’70s, in its earlier years, the establishment had an atmosphere much more representative of a “gentleman’s club.”
“When I was there, there was lots of smoking,” Beeman recalled. “There were the short skirts – the cutest girls were hired – it was a different time.” Beeman recalled that some of the highlights of his time at the club were waiting on famous celebrities. “I remember waiting on Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews,” he said. “And then George Harrison and Ravi Shankar – that was really cool. I got to [wait on] one of the Beatles at Disneyland.”
While purists may debate the merits of changing the architecture of the club, the proposed changes seem to be sensible, and Club 33 as it has existed for decades will never be the same after the last reservation is filled sometime this fall and the doors close for the renovation. But it would stand to reason that the never-activated animatronic vulture will find a new home in the new digs, and – who knows? Perhaps the dormant beast might even be switched on.