Mar-a-Lago sparks criticism for raising its prices for 2017 New Year’s Eve bash
President-elect Donald Trump and Melania Trump arriving for a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Dec. 31, 2016. Evan Vucci/AP

Mar-a-Lago sparks criticism for raising its prices for 2017 New Year’s Eve bash

President Donald Trump will be ringing in 2018 at Mar-a-Lago’s annual New Year’s Eve party — and members of the public can pay a pretty penny to join him.

Tickets for the New Year’s bash at Trump’s Florida estate are being sold this year for $600 for members and $750 for guests, the Guardian reported. The prices are raised from 2016, when they went for $525 and $575, respectively.

The high-profile party drew 500 to 600 guests in 2016, according to the Washington Post, and the gala has attracted celebrity guests like Regis Philbin in recent years. Guests to the 2016 party were treated to remarks from the then-president-elect, and could participate in a conga line with Donald Trump Jr. or pose for photos with Sylvester Stallone and Fabio Lanzoni.

Party goers line up to enter U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31, 2016 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
Party goers line up to enter U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31, 2016 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Don Emmert/Getty Images

This year, the party will have a “modern fantasy garden” theme, the Post reported, going against past years’ more “garish” decor to opt for something more “muted, sophisticated and fitting for a president.” The year-end celebration will also feature music by cover band Party on the Moon, who has played at the event since 2009.

Trump’s celebration with the public comes in the wake of recent reports from White House aides fearing that Mar-a-Lago guests try to influence the president. Though CNN noted that new restrictions have been imposed at the club to limit access to Trump, a Washington Post report alleged that aides believe members and their guests “try to take advantage of the president and exploit his relative freedom from the staff and regimens of the West Wing.”

“At Mar-a-Lago, anyone who can get within eyesight changes the game,” a former White House official told the Post. “Everyone who is angling for something knows to be there.”

Guests arrive for a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Palm Beach, Florida.
Guests arrive for a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Palm Beach, Florida. Evan Vucci/AP

The New Year’s Eve celebration’s high ticket prices have also revived criticisms of the “pay-to-play” nature of Trump’s real estate properties, as Americans can buy access to the president by supporting his family’s business. The president has spent nearly one-third of his presidency at a Trump property, the Wall Street Journal reported in December, though a lawsuit alleging that Trump’s business interests violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution was recently dismissed.

“He can easily be contacted by members of Mar-a-Lago, so people who pay him or pay his company money are getting preferential access. If you go to the bar, you run into prominent government officials,” Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, told the Guardian. “So it’s lobbying, but it’s not lobbying that’s going to be disclosed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”

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