Palm Beach Power Structures
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27th Dec 2016
In reality, Palm Beach is very small and very private, a narrow barrier island with beaches eroding from ever-stronger tides and refilled each summer with imported sand. It is hemmed in by a wide western bay, and ringed by pleasant but less influential places like West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Shores, Palm Beach Lakes and other beachy sounding villes, like Leisureville and Briny Breezes.
The social scene here plays out primarily in private clubs and palatial homes, but the historic Breakers Palm Beach plays the role of community living room, where everyone gathers to see and be seen at important moments, especially between the holidays or early in the New Year. The main bar, HMF, is a veritable scene, where the drinks are excellent and so is the people watching. Down the road, the Chesterfield is also an important host to many of the seasonal galas and fundraisers that dot the Palm Beach social calendar.
At the base of the spine, like a coccyx, sits Mar-a-lago, the private club of Donald Trump and a resort that looks set to become iconic - in the way that Kennebunkport and Praire Chapel Ranch played outsize roles in previous administrations. Mar-a-lago is of course a private club, but a place of a higher power everyone can join is the Church of Bethesda by the Sea, just down from the Breakers and open to all.
This is where Donald Trump married Melanija Knavs on January 22, 2005. The Church of Bethesda by the Sea is both a historic power broker haven, having been the go-to Church for Palm Beach residents and probably America's new primary presidential place of worship, especially after he attended Christmas Eve services there shortly after being elected. For the area's very large and influential Jewish community, its Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach, one of many conservative and orthodox places of worship.
Renato's comes highly recommended by and for locals, and for a quick but casual afternoon, nothing beats the unpretentious and well presented E.R. Bradley's Saloon, where a the Semper Fi mottos and friendly valets provide a man-of-the-people moment.
At the other end of the scale is Buccan, widely acclaimed to be the best restaurant in Palm Beach - excellent fare and a lively atmosphere - younger than the Palm Beach average - which make it nearly impossible to get a reservation.
Palm Beach is refined and quiet, presenting an air of silence that is appealing and relaxing for many reasons, not least the knowledge that behind closed doors all sorts of things are happening. Even out and about, the person at the next table could be a Colombian oligarch, a 'retired' 40 year old Wall Street broker, or an architect who specializes in ridiculous requests, none of whom are probably aware the beaches that made Palm Beach famous are eroding by much larger forces. Then again, no one is there for the beach.