Music

Can people power save The Palace?

Music Victoria has thrown its support behind an online campaign to prevent the Palace Theatre from being turned into a $180-million development.

As reported on Friday, a proposal has been put to the Department of Planning to have the historic building demolished and replaced by a 30-storey building, housing a 205-room “W Hotel” and 145 apartments.

The news has sparked outrage in Melbourne’s live music community. At the time of writing, more than 21,000 people have signed up to a “”Save the Palace Theatre Facebook page, while an online petition has attracted more than 10,000 signatures since going up last night.

In a statement sent to FL today, Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan described The Palace as one of Melbourne’s best live music venues. Previously known as The Metro, it’s hosted memorable gigs from the likes of Nick Cave, Queens Of The Stone Age, My Morning Jacket, Arctic Monkeys, Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine and Girl Talk since opening in 2007. ”[It’s] a beautiful building,” said Donovan, “full of character, great sightlines and production, centrally located, run by experienced operators, and one of the few medium sized venues that can host the bigger Australian acts as well as international touring bands.”

The Palace’s proposed demolition would leave a huge gap for 2000 capacity standing room venues in Melbourne, said Donovan. Capped at 1850 patrons, the only other comparable venues are the nearby Billboard (1050), The Forum Theatre (1500) and The Palais in St Kilda (2896). “Promoters would have to look at downsizing to The Forum, which is already heavily booked with other events such as the comedy and film festival, moving to the Palais Theatre, which has no standing area, or upsizing to Festival Hall,” he told FL.

SPECIAL REPORT: HOW WILL MELBOURNE COPE WITHOUT THE PALACE?

Brian Taranto from touring company Love Police told FL it’s become his venue of choice for gigs of a particular size. “We have had the Keys, the Jacket, Wilco and they have all been unreal times for all involved. A little grimier than The Forum, but those extra 300 people make it an obvious and sometimes essential choice as a promoter. Its loss would leave you going from 1500 at The Forum to 2800 at the Palais which is not everybody’s cup of tea.”

He said he had “awesome plans” for the venue in April, and implored punters to not let it go. “We love the intimacy of The Corner, Hi Fi or Prince, but sometimes you just gotta hit that higher number of punters and you only have one night to do it. At that point, The Palace is most definitely the preferred spot.”

While the 10,000-strong SLAM Rally in 2010 helped save much-loved Melbourne venue The Tote, Donovan said the situation is different this time around. “Like the East Brunswick Club, a new owner has done their sums and realised they can make more money out of apartments. However, when the landlord of The Tote building realised how much passion there was for it as a band venue, he decided to let the new leaseholders continue hosting bands. So the more signatures that are raised for the Palace petition, the better chance that that message will get through.”

Victoria’s Planning Minister Matthew Guy said he will not approve a development at the proposed 31-storey height. “The developer is dreaming if he thinks the government is going to approve this in the form in which it has been submitted,” he told ABC News on Saturday. “It is too tall, it is in the wrong location.”

The minister’s office said they’d be making no further comment on the matter when contacted today by FL.

(Photo by John Carney)