After weeks of rumors, Disney confirmed at a members only event that Disneyland's semi-secret Club 33 restaurant will soon undergo an expansion in New Orleans Square. While the renovation of the historic dining location itself has been a source of controversy, one particular element of the project has drawn the almost universal wrath of Disney fans across the web.
One of the few secluded parts of Disneyland, the "Court Des Anges" is a small courtyard in New Orleans Square that is now slated to become a private waiting area for members of the park's high class club. The exquisitely decorated courtyard was opened along with the rest of the Crescent City-themed land by Walt Disney in 1966, with Club 33 quietly debuting the next year. Mystery and fine detail were abundant in the new land, encouraging guests to explore and wander. The Court of Angels and other such surprises were integral to the thematic environment, enveloping visitors in the charm of Disney's old New Orleans.
The location has become a favorite for family photos, and is extremely popular with park historians and passholders. Club 33 is similarly revered, though for different reasons. Hidden behind a plain green door on Royal Street, the exclusive restaurant on the second floor of the square is not actively advertised in the park. Most vacationers have never even heard of it.
The club was originally intended to be a place where Walt Disney himself could entertain friends and dignitaries in Disneyland, dining in elegant style away from the hustle and bustle of the park. After his death the club, named for its address, become a cliquish space reserved for a small group of high paying members; fees in 2012 included a $25,000 initiation fee and $10,000 in annual dues.
Now seeking to expand the number of financially-fortunate diners in the park, Disney quietly informed club members that the restaurant will soon close for an expansion that will improve the kitchen areas and add a jazz lounge to the facility. The famously discreet entrance will no longer be used, replaced in its duties by a new entry portal where Christmas store L’Ornement Magique is now. The former store will then open into the Court of Angels, which will itself be closed off to common guests by "opaque glass panels" as it becomes a waiting area for club members.
As with previous changes at the park, fan outcry seems to have little effect. Even a combination of fan opposition, extensive media coverage and appeals from Imagineer Mary Blair's family were not enough to stop Disney from making similarly controversial changes to "it's a small world".
It is feared that if things proceed as planned everyday guests will indeed lose one of the hidden treasures of Disneyland, claimed by a privileged few.