Closing Down The Palace

Thursday, 1 May, 2014

We all love music and going to a great concert, whatever genre it may be; Melbourne’s strong music industry pours $1 billion into the city’s economy annually. However, Melbourne’s live music industry is being strangled.

The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street has played host to a plethora of national and international acts. It has a capacity of 1,850 people, perfect for musicians who are too popular to fit into smaller venues such as Billboard (1,050), but not yet big enough to fill out Festival Hall (5,445).

Here’s some sad news though—at the end of May, the Palace Theatre will close.

The closure is the result of an ongoing battle. It began with the building’s acquisition by a Chinese property group, who then submitted a planning permit to demolish the historic site and turn it into a 30-storey hotel and apartment complex. Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected the proposal in February, but developers have since submitted a new plan.

The latest development came at the end of March: the Palace Theatre issued a statement announcing they would be closing their doors forever on May 31. The site owner—the aforementioned Chinese property group—rejected Palace management’s repeated requests for a lease extension, and cries for help to state and local governments to support relocation for the venue fell on deaf ears.

The Palace Theatre is an integral part of our music scene—this year alone, its hosted Big Day Out and Soundwave sideshows for beloved bands like The Killers, Sum 41 and The Offspring. Without the Palace, these mid-sized bands have no reasonable venue – everything is booked up or not the right size.

This means that we could be missing out on great concerts because there is no adequate venue to house them. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age—who both have concerts at Rod Laver Arena this year—played there in the earlier stages of their careers.

There are already concerns that this closure will result in bands skipping Melbourne on their tours, with the Palace Theatre being a go-to for international booking managers.

For a city that prides itself on being a ‘live music capital,’ this series of events seems ironic.

There aren’t many venues like The Palace. Its frontage is old-fashioned, the interior warm and friendly. Musicians love the atmosphere, and music lovers are always returning. Its support is widespread—the ‘Save The Palace’ Facebook group has over 30,000 likes and has been active in opposing the planning permits and supporting the future of the venue.

We love our music, but with the closure of the Palace Theatre, the industry will struggle to cope.

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