Melbourne is set to lose another iconic music venue, and it’s time to take another stand to save live music in this city.
News that The Palace Theatre may well be destroyed to make way for a hotel has been met with anger and indignation from music-lovers, and rightly so: The Palace Theatre is far too special and important to the Melbourne music scene to be lost.
It was recently announced that the Chinese property investment firm Jinshan Investments has applied to build Australia’s first ‘W Hotel’, a complex encompassing 40,000 square metres, hosting 205 hotel rooms and 145 apartments, estimated to cost around $180 million; because if there’s one thing that we need more of in the city, it’s a hotel.
These plans would include the complete demolition of The Palace Theatre, wiping the iconic, unique, and historic venue off the face of the planet. The Palace is a near-perfect place to watch live music, and losing it would leave a gaping whole in the Melbourne music scene that will have harmful long-term effects.
The current situation is a continuation of a worrying trend occurring across the country, with developers seemingly hell-bent on transforming our vibrant city into a culture-free, dull and life-less one, with the likes of the East Brunswick Club and, for a very short period of time, The Tote, closing down.
If this trend continues, Melbourne may well eventually lose the unique buildings that define it as a city, and merely be another city filled with sky-scraping hotels and luxurious, modern buildings.
Even viewed as a matter outside of live music, the proposed developments will be severely damaging to Melbourne being the self-proclaimed “cultural capital” of the country. To demolish a hundred year old theatre for a 100m tall luxury hotel would set a dangerous and damaging precedent that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the artistic and musical status of the city.
According to the developers, the proposed hotel will “re-energize” the eastern end of the CBD, although it is as yet unclear how an expensive, high-class hotel which will likely attract only rich businessmen will achieve this better than a renowned and vibrant music venue that attracts thousands of music fans from across the state, and the country.
The building was first erected in 1860 under the name of The Douglas Theatre, but was destroyed by a fire in 1911. The following year, the theatre in its current form was built, originally acting as a cinema, before being transformed into a nightclub and music venue in 1987.
Viewed from the outside, The Palace is a beautiful, attention-grabbing theatre filled with character like no other in the city. From the inside, The Palace is perhaps the best venue in the state to watch live music. With three levels and sizable standing area, including balconies virtually on top of the stage, and enough bars to ensure there’s never a long wait, every single person inside the venue is able to have an impeccable view of the act.
With a capacity of just under 2,000 it is one of the few of this size in the city, and in the last few years, it has played host to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, and Animal Collective, and serves an important role in facilitating tours for some of these mid-sized international bands, ones that are far too big to play the likes of The Corner Hotel, but cannot fill the expansive arenas such as Etihad Stadium, Rod Laver Arena, or Festival Hall.
The Palace is an iconic and historic venue, and should have a full Heritage Listing to prevent these types of attempted developments, but this is not the case, and now we must do something to save it. If the Palace Theatre can go, then no another venue in Melbourne is safe.
It’s been proved time and time again that music-loving people can and will take action in order to prevent these venues being destroyed. In 2010, following the forced closure of The Tote due to ridiculously harsh liquor licensing, an estimated 5,000 people rallied on the streets, leading to its eventual re-opening. The same year saw the Save Live Australian Music rally, which attracted between 10,000 and 20,000 people, according to the ABC.
It’s glaringly obvious that we are willing to take real action to save our music scene, and unfortunately this is becoming an increasingly necessary act to ensure the longterm stability of Melbourne’s live music scene.
Three years ago the music-lovers of Melbourne united to save The Tote, and the time has come to do so again. We cannot sit idly by and let these iconic music venues be destroyed one after the other, and the time has come to take a stand.