Esquire UK
Feb. 2002

"I DON'T CARE TO BELONG TO A CLUB THAT ACCEPTS PEOPLE LIKE ME AS MEMBERS." Groucho Marx There is something fundamentally un-American about members bars, we are a country of mixing, including, not excluding where the parts are as important as the whole. Cocktails and cocktail bars are an American invention and the cocktail is a metaphor for the American people. Cocktails are a composite beverage for a composite people served in an establishment where the only entrance fee is the price of a drink and the only rules are that you behave and remain upright and awake. We have plenty of clubs, university clubs, tall peoples clubs, secret societies, even SCONY (Spanking Club of New York) but the cocktail bars are open to the public…in New Orleans they are open all day, all night, and all week. Having said that let me talk about a couple members' bars.

Grand Havana
301 North Canon Drive Beverly Hills, California
666 Fifth Avenue New York N.Y.

The Schuster Family opened these exclusive members' cigar bars in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington D.C. The Washington D.C club has since closed its doors, Washington is one big private club and no one saw the need for another. Los Angeles opened first and is the most successful because it offered an oasis to the cigar smoker in a city and state dedicated to eradicating smoking in all public places at all times. The tab was pretty steep so the club only offered relief to a celebrity crowd who could afford the $2000. Joining fee and the $150 a month after that! The humidors and other appointments are first class and although the bar offers a wide selection of the most premium spirits there never was an emphasis on great cocktails. But no one seemed to care since they got to rub shoulders with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert DeNiro, Mel Gibson and Jack Nicholson. The club in NYC sits on top of 666 Fifth Avenue with spectacular 35th floor veiws of the north west and east. There are live piano and jazz several nights a week and the club is a bit more accessible than the west coast club. The owners miscalculated the interest New Yorkers would have in paying all that money to rub shoulders with celebrities, plus we can already smoke cigars in several hundred really nice bars for the price of a drink, so cost of joining has been scaled back.

The Magic Castle 7001 Franklin Avenue Hollywood California
The Magic Castle is the world headquarters for the Academy of Magical Arts housed in a 1906, Victorian Mansion nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Besides that it is a wonderful restaurant with a cocktail bar in every niche and drawing room. After being lucky enough to get the invitation from one of the 5000 associate or magician members one stands in front of a blank wall on the ground floor and with the words "open says me". The wall opens to reveal a lively cocktail bar that can't even be heard from the lobby even though Irma the ghost piano player is playing away with abandon. Don't get to close to Irma she gets upset when crowded and be careful what you say within earshot of the piano because Irma may have some musical comments to make about your private conversation. Joining the club is easy if you are a magic lover and can convince the board of magician members your passion is authentic, then you just have to pay the $1000, Joining fee and your covered for one year. After that it will cost you about $400, a year in dues. If you're a magician it will only set you back half that amount but you must perform 10 minutes of close up magic for a panel of 5 of the best magicians in the world…so put away your acme magicians kit and just pay the money! Inside you will see the world class magicians in three different venues, a close-up room that accommodates 22 people and two other show rooms for larger illusions. If you want to reach a dearly beloved departed family member of friend sign up for a Victorian Séance with 10 of you closest friends. Open nightly and Sunday at brunch for members and their guests.