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A peek behind Atlanta's velvet rope

Jennifer Brett

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Pssst. You know a guy who knows a guy? You’re in the right place.

From suburban hideaways to intown aeries, we’re a city full of secret getaways. Spurred by our buddies Conan O’Brien, Maria Bello, John Travolta and Robert De Niro, who all have made unannounced visits to the exclusive Club at Chops, we decided to take a peek behind some of Atlanta’s figurative velvet ropes.

Tucked into Chops Lobster Bar in Buckhead, the Club has a waiting list to get on the waiting list. You need a member’s referral to get on that pre-list list, and the selection process is about as mysterious as the Vatican’s method for picking a pope. Should you manage to secure a membership, our well-placed sources indicate, you’ll find yourself waiting once again for the Club’s most coveted spot, the Frank Sinatra table.

“Even if you are on the waiting list, membership is not guaranteed,” said Jennifer Parker, a spokesman for the Buckhead Life Group, which operates Chops.

At the nearby Buckhead Club, acquiring a spot in the wine cellar is less mysterious but also takes time.

“We have a wine club within our club,” said general manager Jeff Goldworn, a renowned local wine expert who’s on the host committee of the annual Atlanta Best Cellars Dinner benefiting the T.J. Martell Foundation. (It raises money for medical research.) “Within that, there are member wine lockers that members stock with their wines.”

There are 1,280 members of the Buckhead Club, 105 members in the wine club and only 64 wine lockers. Do the math.

“We have a waiting list of about 19 for the wine lockers,” Goldworn said. “It’s a slow process. People understand and they’re patient.”

At Frank Ski's Restaurant and Lounge, the private wine room seats eight, but it's not exactly clear just how you and your seven BFFs make it in. You can't technically reserve the room for dinner; we're told it's handled on a case-by-case basis, and that often Ski himself entertains there. (He and some friends are shown in the photo on the left with his pal Denzel Washington, who stopped by while in town filming "Flight.")

Folks looking for a more expedient VIP vibe can easily sneak into a hidden restaurant-within-a-restaurant in Smyrna. Walk through Muss & Turner’s on Cumberland Parkway, and there’s a large stainless-steel door leading to a walk-in cooler.

But wait. That cooler door is actually the unmarked, unadvertised entrance to the dimly lit but lively Eleanor’s.

“We’ve been amazed by how the community’s embraced it,” said Chris Hall, one of the Muss & Turner’s partners. “It’s been far more popular than we ever imagined.”

Eleanor’s, named for restaurant comptroller Eleanor Seale, opened in May 2012 when Muss & Turner’s former neighbor left, leaving a vacant spot next door.

“Part of what we wanted to do was build something in that part of town that wasn’t there,” Hall said. “We were trying to build a place where we would want to hang out.”

Speaking of hanging out, the absolute swankiest place to watch the Atlanta Braves is in the ground-level Sun Trust Club, but alas, it's been sold out since it debuted. But "immediately surrounding the SunTrust Club, the Henry Aaron level seats are the closest seats available to home plate in a 1-year season ticket deal, and season tickets in this section include in-seat service, $10 food and beverage credit, and a 755 Club membership," according to the Braves "Season ticket purchasers also have the option to add Diamond Preferred valet-assisted parking."

Those seats are in the $5,000 ballpark per season ($5,334  this season) but they vary. Suites might be a suitable alternative to high-rolling Braves fans; they start at $1,920 (the season ticket holder rate) per game. Click here for details.

Turns out some Atlantans want the red carpet to extend straight to their door. Given that our town was ranked No. 7 on the Forbes list of “10 Cities With the Most Extreme, Long Commutes” this spring, service providers from retail to medicine have amended their business models to accommodate high-profile and/or time-pressed clients.

Nurse practitioner Linda McIver-Duxbury’s concierge care firm, 2U Medical, makes house calls for an average of $175 per visit. (Botox and vitamin treatments are popular.)

“Our typical client is the busy working executive, the mom who can’t find time to go to the doctor because she’s so busy taking care of the household and kids,” she said. “People who travel a lot and have Atlanta as one of their places of residence, the last thing they want to do is sit in an office.”

Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallups, founding partner of the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute, is known as “the rock doc” thanks to his many famous patients.

“I can’t say who, but there’s one former ‘American Idol’ judge who’s got me on speed dial,” Gallups said. "People who are famous, they don’t need to be in the public eye. There are singers who come to Atlanta and have lost their voice and need an emergency EMT visit. I usually handle most of those calls myself. There are people you and I both know, some of them live in Atlanta and some don’t. They trust me to keep it confidential."

He treats the non-famous, too.

"We’re not just for rock stars. We provide VIP service to everyone," he said. "We have same-day appointments. Everybody who comes to us has the opportunity to be an executive."

At Intimacy, the high-end lingerie store in Phipps Plaza, Kate Terhune has been known to open early or stay late. Even if you’re not as well-known as reality show personality NeNe Leakes, who shops there, you can book an appointment online with a fit specialist so there’s no waiting.

“Our customers kind of expect that from us,” she said.

In fact, they expect it from almost everyone.

“Atlanta loves VIP treatment,” observed publicist Caren West, who was up to her perfectly shaped eyebrows Monday getting ready for Jeffrey Fashion Cares, which benefits the Atlanta AIDS Fund and Susan G. Komen for the Cure-Greater Atlanta Affiliate and summons the city’s most fashionable philanthropists. “More than ever, we are receiving requests from clients and consumers alike to provide red carpet, velvet-rope and exclusive experiences.”


“I blame it on social media,” West said. “How else can you show the world that you’re a VIP other than posting a picture of yourself on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter with your equally fabulous besties?”

Indeed. We’ll be looking forward to her fabulous feeds.

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