Is Mar-a-Lago open to the public? Raid on Trump’s private club raises questions

Bruno Cooke August 10, 2022
Is Mar-a-Lago open to the public? Raid on Trump’s private club raises questions

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The FBI executed a search warrant on Monday (August 8, 2022) at former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in Palm Beach, Florida, raising questions as to whether the estate is open to the public for visits – for example, as a hotel.

The search warrant was part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, CNN reports.

CNN cites “three people familiar with the situation” in its claim the documents being investigated include “classified documents that may have been brought there” – to Mar-a-Lago.

So, can you visit Mar-a-Lago if you’re not a paying member? Is it open to the public as a hotel?

Is Mar-a-Lago open to the public?

The short answer is, I’m afraid, no. Even though it does have a hotel, the hotel is only available to members of the club or anyone sponsored by a member of the club.

Mar-a-Lago serves two purposes. Since September 2019, it has been the primary residence for Donald and Melania Trump. But the estate is also home to the Mar-a-Lago Club, a resort and hotel for dues-paying members.

Membership of the Mar-a-Lago Club costs $200,000 (£163,000) – as an up-front fee – plus $14,000 per year. There is also a $2,000 minimum spend on food at the club, meaning the annual cost is effectively $16,000.

Palm Beach, Florida USA – September 29, 2018: Mar-a-Lago, a members-only club and National Historic Landmark in Palm Beach, Florida is frequent residence of Donald Trump. Trump has referred to the resort as the Winter White House. Built in the 1920s by Marjorie Merriweather Post, it was acquired by Trump in 1985.

Is there any way to get into Mar-a-Lago without membership?

A main feature of a private members’ club such as the Mar-a-Lago Club, as Open Democracy states, “is in the name: it’s private.” The only way you can get in lawfully is if a member sponsors you, allowing you to book a room at the Mar-a-Lago hotel.

Trump’s is among the most expensive clubs in the world. For example, not only is there a joining fee of $200,000, once you become a member, prices are still high. The Pricer claims members “can’t just hang out for free. Everything will cost you money.”

“Staying overnight at the hotel can cost a few thousand dollars, depending on the room size.” So getting in is difficult. Hence, Business Insider calls it “the exclusive resort the public doesn’t get to see.” 

One writer’s take on ‘how to sneak into Mar-a-Lago’

Romanian-Israeli journalist and comedy writer Nimrod Kamer wrote an article for digital newsletter Air Mail in March 2021 entitled How To Sneak Into Mar-a-Lago.

In it, he details what he says are “the best ways” to go about gaining entry to Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago compound without forking out the $216,000 you’ll need to spend to become a member for a year, or the $2,000 per night hotel room cost – which you need a member to sponsor you for anyway. 

His methods – take each with a large pinch of salt – include pretending you owe money to the club; a “backdoor scheme” involving a beach tunnel; pretending to be “Tiffany Trump’s fiancé, Michael Boulos, who’s among the non-member members”; and saying you have some “information on Hillary Clinton” stowed in a “big brown envelope.”

Remember, he’s a comedy writer. Read his take here.

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What sort of facilities does the estate offer?

In its video primer on Donald Trump’s “American castle,” The Richest details many of the ways in which Mar-a-Lago flaunts its opulence.

It has 128 rooms, of which 58 are bedrooms and 33 are bathrooms. Incidentally, that’s two fewer bathrooms than the White House.

The estate sits on 20 acres of “lush waterfront property,” and was built in 1927 by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. 

Shortly after he bought it, Trump ordered the construction of a 20,000 sq ft ballroom. Mar-a-Lago boasts at least four gold-plated sinks worth an average of $25,000 each, 16th century Flemish tapestries, and a 1927 Steinway baby grand piano worth between $70,000 and $150,000.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.