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You don't have to be hip for this club, just connected

The Center Club in Costa mesa will hold a reopening party to show off its multimillion-dollar renovation.

January 24, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • The VIP Lounge at the Center Club, which recently underwent a renovation.
The VIP Lounge at the Center Club, which recently underwent… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

One of the more traumatic moments of my life was the night I was ruled too unhip to enter a club.

No, it wasn't Studio 54 with its infamous velvet rope — it was a far less prestigious nightclub in England that, nevertheless, scanned me for an instant and turned me away.

A group of grad-student friends and I stood in line for nearly half an hour, and when we reached the front, the doorman nodded toward my pale blue jeans and smirked, "Sorry, mate. Can't wear light-colored pants in here. Too cheeky." I turned to my entourage and found that one of them, too, was wearing beige slacks, and our evening plans were irrevocably dashed.

It's not that I've never been admitted to a club since then. After all, I serve on the board of directors for the Orange County Press Club, which I'd take over any disco utopia. But the thing is, even though we're an exclusive group, we don't have an actual club — as in, a mysterious brick-and-mortar venue that people observe from outside while imagining top-secret meetings, exotic drinks and other unattainable hipness.

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So when I got an invitation to take a walking tour of the revamped Center Club in Costa Mesa on Wednesday afternoon, I gladly accepted. For those who aren't members of the Center Club, it's a 26-year-old club founded by Henry Segerstrom and located next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The venue, which bills itself as "Orange County's premier private business and social club," recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and will host a re-opening party Jan. 31.

The Center Club is not a nightclub, of course, and getting inside is not a matter of wearing the right attire. To join, you have to be invited by a current member, and if the information on your application checks out (and if you pay a one-time entrance fee, plus monthly dues), you're in. You can also transfer your membership if you belong to another venue in ClubCorp, the nationwide group that owns the Center Club; if you have a friend who's a member, he or she can also bring you in as a guest.

Once you pass all those hurdles, the membership is democratic: men and women, all ages, small business owners and senior executives. Some people go to the club to pound on their laptops or hold meetings; others go to have dinner and drinks or watch TV. Unlike at Studio 54, Bianca Jagger has never ridden through the lobby on a white horse to celebrate her birthday, but you can't have everything.

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