PALM BEACH (CBSMiami/CNN) – Mar-a-Lago members are leaving the club following the return of Donald Trump because they no longer want to have any connection to the former president, says the author of the definitive book about the resort.
"It's a very dispirited place," Laurence Leamer, historian and author of "Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace," told MSNBC host Alex Witt on "Weekends with Alex Witt" Saturday. He said members are "not concerned about politics and they said the food is no good."
Leamer said he spoke to a number of former members who "silently walked out" after Trump left office.
Trump moved to the Palm Beach, Florida, estate after his term ended last week. But without the cachet of the sitting president of the United States working at the estate, guests are finding Mar-a-Lago lost a step. There isn't any entertainment on the property during the pandemic, and Leamer added, "It's a sad place ... it's not what it was."
Disgruntled members might lead to a smaller paycheck for Trump. When Trump was president, many people paid up to $200,000 for Mar-a-Lago memberships, Leamer pointed out, and he said they don't think they'll continue paying that price.
Mar-a-Lago has long been ridiculed by critics as a stodgy, stuffy club filled with Trump memorabilia -- some of it fake. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel on Friday recounted a visit to the resort just before Trump became president.
"You could not possibly exaggerate how comical it is," Kimmel said on The Ringer's "The Bill Simmons Podcast." "Everyone there is 100 years old."
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Kimmel told Simmons he went to the resort about six years ago to have dinner with Howard Stern, who lived near the property at the time. He described the Mar-a-Lago attendees as "hunched-over people who are eating soft food" and he said the place is covered in Trump photos.
"It was just quiet and a terrible place," Kimmel said. "And now he lives in this terrible place."
Trump's hotels and hospitality companies were hit particularly hard during the coronavirus pandemic, but sales at the Mar-a-Lago resort increased over the last year, from $21.4 million to $24.2 million. In 2019, the former president transferred his permanent residence to the Florida resort from Trump Tower in New York. But questions remain about whether he'll be allowed to live there permanently, because it may violate his 1993 agreement with the town of Palm Beach.
"Even here, people don't like him," Leamer said, referring to residents of Palm Beach -- many of whom voted for Trump in hopes of lower taxes and a booming stock market. "It's just another measure of how his power has declined."
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