River Yacht Club and VanDutch Lounge Bring Further Gentrification of Miami River District

Make like a big-time captain on a yachtie's salary.
Make like a big-time captain on a yachtie's salary.
Courtesy of River Yacht Club

Legendary comedian Groucho Marx famously quipped, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member," which is why he'd likely not want to belong to the River Yacht Club

The rest of Miami, however, might be interested in the new membership-driven culinary/lifestyle venue, set to open February 17 at 401 SW Third Ave. in the Miami River District. The luxury complex consists of a restaurant, outdoor garden, lounge, boat marina, and luxury yacht showroom (in case your annual bonus was exceptionally generous last year). 

Building a tony yacht club at this particular location might seem like a gamble at first glance. Right now, the neighborhood, home to José Martí Park, holds few delights for the upscale, jet-setting crowd the club seeks to entertain. But, like much of Miami, the area is quickly changing.

In April 2015, developer Avra Jain purchased the Miami River Inn at 437 SW Second St. for $8.6 million. And the River Landing project, located at 1400 NW North River Dr., will house 475 luxury apartments, 2,200 parking spaces, retail shops, and restaurants. The expanded Miami River District's website calls the area "Miami’s ultimate destination" and mentions Casablanca Fish Market and Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market as two of the neighborhood's best places to visit.

The River Yacht Club's restaurant features indoor and outdoor dining areas decorated in a modern seafaring motif, catering more to modern-day pirates of industry than the Capt. Jack Sparrow type. The kitchen is helmed by executive chef Michael Lewis, who has worked at multiple locations of the upscale Zuma restaurant brand and several of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's establishments. Once again, the sea plays heavily into the menu's theme, with a concentration on seafood and sides with a Mediterranean slant.

Restaurant at the River Yacht Club
Restaurant at the River Yacht Club
Courtesy of River Yacht Club

The crown jewel is the world's first VanDutch Lounge, located on the facility's rooftop terrace. Named for the über-expensive motor yachts that look like something a 1960s-era James Bond villain or oligarch on vacation would use to entertain guests, the 150-seat lounge will serve drinks with a view.

If the sight of these seafaring vessels entices you to purchase one, there's a VanDutch showroom right on the premises. The cost of one of these powerhouses: If you have to ask, you probably can't afford it, but used VanDutch models go for well over a million. 

Although the restaurant and lounge are open to the public, only River Yacht Club members can secure reservations. If you're thinking, How in the world could I join a yacht club on my paltry salary? Don't worry — you actually can, and you don't even need a yacht to join.

You don't have to have a VanDutch docked outside to enjoy the VanDutch lounge.
You don't have to have a VanDutch docked outside to enjoy the VanDutch lounge.
Courtesy of River Yacht Club

Base membership is about the same as your monthly auto-debit at the gym. The Ambassador membership costs a reasonable (for Miami) $120 per month. Although there are no yacht-docking privileges with this level, you get valet parking for your car, access to a members-only reservation line, and a personalized membership card — which is way more useful for scoring with Miami's beautiful people than the LA Fitness card you have on your keychain.

If you do have a yacht, you'll probably be interested in the other membership options, such as the Captain ($2,400 per year), which allows for dockage of your smaller yacht (up to 80 feet), or the Commander, which offers the same benefits but locks you in for three months for $1,200 (in case you plan on summering in Nice). 

But don't let the fact that you'll probably never be able to afford more than an inflatable dinghy stop you from donning white pants and a navy jacket. Nothing says "Miami" more than belonging to a yacht club when you don't own a boat.


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