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Jonathan Club's Members Vote 4 to 1 to Admit Women

April 30, 1987|KENNETH REICH | Times Staff Writer

The membership of the Jonathan Club, long one of the two leading private men's clubs in Los Angeles, has voted by a 4-1 margin to admit women, club officials said Wednesday. They said woman members will soon be admitted on the same basis as men.

The club's board of directors, acceding to the overwhelming sentiment expressed in the vote, decided to discontinue the practice of excluding women after what was described as a "terribly emotional meeting" Tuesday night.

Club President Donald E. Butler said that the decision to accept women into the 92-year-old club was made by "a group of rational individuals trying to do the right thing."

About 2,500 of the club's more than 3,000 full members voted in a survey of the membership, according to a board member who declined to be identified. An 80% majority answered affirmatively to a single question: Should women be admitted as full club members, with the understanding that a few rooms in the club would remain for males only?

"The agreement is that henceforth women will have equal access to the club," the board member said, "They still must be socially acceptable, just as male members."

At City Hall, those responsible for pushing a proposed city ordinance that would outlaw discrimination at all private clubs with more than 400 members where regular meals are provided and facilities are rented for meetings attended by non-members, applauded the Jonathan Club decision. But they said the ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Joy Picus, will go forward. Its first hearing will be in a committee session Wednesday.

Mayor Tom Bradley's legal counsel, Mark D. Fabiani, and City Controller Rick Tuttle announced that the California Club and the Los Angeles Country Club would be the next targets of efforts to integrate clubs with both minorities and women.

The California Club, located just a block away from the downtown facility of the Jonathan Club, has a provision in its bylaws barring women, and it also reportedly has no black members. The Los Angeles Country Club has women members but reportedly excludes several minorities.

Los Angeles Country Club manager James Brewer did not return a call Wednesday asking for comment on statements by Fabiani and Tuttle. California Club President Lawrence P. Day declined comment, relaying word through a club aide that he had nothing to say.

But there were signs that the California Club in particular is coming under heavy pressure--perhaps internally as well as externally--to begin moving in the same direction as the Jonathan Club.

From without, Jonathan Club First Vice President John Peckham took a jab at the rival club, remarking that the Jonathan Club has now taken the lead.

"They've always said we follow the California Club," Peckham said. "Bull!"

He added that the Jonathan Club has recently admitted so many minority members "we don't even keep count of them."

At the California Club, a member who heads a large law firm expressed impatience with the club's position. He had said last week that not having women members had simply become inconvenient to big firms wanting to use the club for business meetings.

"I was over there to the California Club yesterday," said the attorney, who asked not to be identified. "Nobody was saying anything about anything. I think those guys are too old to read what's happening."

Meanwhile, leaders of women's organizations said that while applications for Jonathan Club memberships may at first be a trickle, they eventually will grow substantially.

"There won't be a flood of applicants at first, because a lot of the Jonathan members have made their reluctance very clear in the past," said Sheila Kuehl, president of the Women Lawyers Assn. of Los Angeles. "There will be a few pioneers, and then more and more."

"I'm not surprised (at the Jonathan Club vote)," Kuehl said. "I think that the pressure has been building in terms of public opinion and also legislative action at the state and city level. I'm frankly more surprised that the California Club has not announced its intention to admit women."

The Jonathan and California clubs, and several exclusive clubs in San Francisco and Sacramento, are viewed as key places for discussing business, and business and professional people excluded from them have often felt at a career disadvantage. As Kuehl put it, "They provide wonderful access and camaraderie. Women want to be included."

Judy Miller, president of the Women's Trusteeship, said, "I think it's great that the Jonathan Club has done it. They are to be congratulated. A year from now, they'll look back and wonder what all the hue and cry was about. It is such a logical step. Everyone benefits."

Councilwoman Picus, meanwhile, said that while the Jonathan Club's action is "wonderful," she intends to move forward with her ordinance.

"If it doesn't apply to them, fine, we'll have it on the books, and it will apply only to those who still discriminate," she said.

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