This blog was supposed to be a food review about eating lunch at the Tower Club. The plan was to go as guests to Broward County's high-rollers club, have a two-martini lunch, and file a piece on our Clean Plate Charlie food blog offering a critical analysis of the place.
But after kindly offering us an invite to dine at the top of South Florida, the Tower Club rescinded at the last minute. We were so close to being One Of Them.
The whole thing began back in April, when we were conducting "research" to find the best martini as part of our yearly Best Of Broward-Palm Beach edition, due out June 17. After trying several subpar martinis, Juice Editor Thomas Francis suggested that the Tower Club probably makes one mean martini.
So, we figured, why not go see for ourselves?
On April 27, I emailed Patty Jerde, media contact for Clubcorp, the Dallas-based company that owns the Tower Club and 169 other private clubs around the world. I asked if we could come
by sometime for lunch for the sake of a review. Jerde responded that day and said she had forwarded my note to Kathy Trebbi, general manager at the Tower Club.
Trebbi called me the next week to set up lunch. She also described the rich history of the club, which opened in 1974. It's located at the top of One Financial Plaza, which was once the tallest building in Fort Lauderdale. Now sporting Regions Bank's name across the top, One Financial has been eclipsed by three others.
Over the years, the Tower Club has maintained the original rules, Trebbi explained. Ladies still get a rose when they come for dinner. There's a sorbet course. Gentlemen wear jackets in the dining room Friday and Saturday nights. The membership now includes 1,200 families, who pay $2,000 to join and $125 a year in dues. Dinner is expensive, but the buffet lunch is as low as $10 on Tuesdays.
Trebbi asked when we'd like to come for lunch. I asked if we could sit with a longtime member to
talk about what it's like to be a member of the Tower. Trebbi said she had the perfect person: Paul Sallarulo, chairman of the club's board. Trebbi explained that Sallarulo, since joining the club in 1990, has personally brought in 350 new family memberships.
Sallarulo was also an interesting choice, considering who I was bringing. Sallarulo is a former chairman of the North Broward Hospital District Board, a government agency that Francis and New Times columnist Bob Norman have written about many times, mostly for the district's rampant cronyism and corruption. While New Times hasn't said anything negative about Sallarulo over the years, we certainly have about some of his friends, who include Gov. Charlie Crist.
Such things didn't seem to bother Sallarulo, who confirmed with Trebbi that he was available to meet Francis and me for a noon lunch May 13.
But the night before, Trebbi emailed me to say lunch was off:
I am very sorry, I need to cancel lunch for tomorrow, I'll be in touch to reschedule.
Kindest regards, :)
About a week went by without any word from Trebbi about rescheduling, so I emailed her. No response. So a few days later, I sent a note asking if perhaps our lunch plans were off. Trebbi responded today with this email:
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I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. It seems our Home Office has come across some extremely unflattering (and uncalled for) comments about the Tower Club written by Thomas Francis for your publication (I've included a link to the article below) and is uneasy about me speaking with you. The tone of your last e-mail has furthered those concerns about your intentions so I have been advised to decline the request to assist you with your article.
The blog item in question was about a Crist fundraiser at the Tower Club. Unflattering remarks? I suppose they could take offense to Francis comparing the club to Crist's fraternity days, where there might be "some mutual bum-sniffing." More than anything, the post was about the club's policies, like the one asking ladies to use discretion with their clothing.
But considering the investigative journalism Francis has done exposing fraud and corruption among this city's power brokers, many of whom are likely Tower Club members, such a comment seems like a grazing hit. Perhaps the Tower Club had something else to fear by inviting an enemy of many of their own into the inner sanctum. What foolish farmer would feed a buffet lunch to the fox?
Well, if that's the reason, Tower Club, you have successfully protected your more corruptible members from our presence. At least for one lunch. See you at the next North Broward Hospital District meeting.