By Robin Jay
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
– Henry David Thoreau
The Santa Monica seashore and sunshine danced in unison one afternoon last April when my family and I stepped onto the boardwalk at the Jonathan Beach Club. Guests at a National Club Conference dinner, we were warmly welcomed as if longtime friends of the family at a celebratory dinner party. We couldn’t have fathomed the spectacular hospitality and surprises awaiting.
With tropical cocktail in hand, we encountered a grand, translucent beach-side tent, fancifully decorated with color-changing floating orbs and white-linen-cloaked tables beautifully adorned with fine china, crystal glassware, candlelight, floral displays ― and with smiling servers standing by to seat us. The evening’s master of ceremony, General Manager and COO Matthew Allnatt, greeted us with his charming British wit and then introduced Executive Chef Jason McClain and Sommelier Caitlin Stansbury whose epigrammatic presentation vividly built our anticipation of the gastronomy and wine pairings about to make our acquaintance.
With that, Mr. Allnatt announced, “Dinner is served!” Right on cue, a white curtain fell to the floor, revealing a hidden stage. Jaws dropped and guests stared in awe as a Santa Monica student orchestra launched into a striking classical ensemble ― while in-sync severs presented a most-delicious and artful meal. It was an experience like none other ― one for the memory books.
What Makes Jonathan Club Unique?
“Jonathan Club is more than delicious world-class food and endless wine lists, we’re a community club to join if you want to live longer ― seriously,” said Allnatt, who has helmed and re-imagined the 123-year-old Jonathan Club for most of the recent decade.
“We have an inclusive culture of value creation for our members,” he continued. “Much like Blue Zones around the world where people are the happiest and live the longest, at Jonathan Club, we provide a home-away-from-home haven where members can build cross-generational relationships, eat healthy meals made with fresh regional ingredients, some of which are grown in our rooftop garden, exercise and swim in state-of-the-art facilities, relax and rejuvenate in the spa, and participate in community-enriching activities that have served to grow LA ever since it was a small western town at the turn of the century.”
The Historic Founding
A group of men began gathering at an LA home before the turn of the 20th century, initially to support William McKinley’s presidential campaign. The men enjoyed the camaraderie, and so after the campaign efforts, they founded the Jonathan Club as a modest social Club in September 1895. They named it in homage to ‘Brother Jonathan,’ a pre-Uncle Sam caricature that, ironically, the British had created to mock rebellious colonists. Along with other Americans, the Jonathan Club happily embraced ‘Brother Jonathan’ as a symbol of the brave immigrants who founded these United States.
“Over the last century, the Jonathan Club has established itself as the flagship of the West Coast,” noted Allnatt. “Generations of members have included some of the most influential figures in American and California history, shaping our city into the modern pillar of culture, production, and worldwide influence that it is today.”
Indeed, it is so. ‘Jonathans’ (as members are affectionately known) are volunteers, soldiers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, astronauts, Pulitzer-winning authors, athletes, scientists, educators, artists and philanthropists. It was here at Jonathan Club that UCLA, the Los Angeles Times, Griffith Observatory, the LA Philharmonic, the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens, and the 1932 Olympics were born.
“Yes, we have wine tastings, award-winning restaurants, black-tie affairs, music and food festivals, but what our members get the most fulfillment from is giving back to the community, as well as honoring heroes who have made America a better place,” said Allnatt, who attributes the success of the Jonathan Club to his stellar staff, of which he says he is ‘merely the coach.’ “We have outreach programs for underprivileged students, community service days, and we sponsor benefits to protect the environment. We support the Medal of Honor Foundation, and each year recognize an outstanding person with the Reagan Distinguished American Award, the first recipients of which were President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy.”
With a private slice of the Santa Monica Beach and a 12-story facility in the heart of downtown LA, members continue to deepen the great American Legacy that is Jonathan Club.