Council Claims Palais Theatre Facing “Imminent Risk Of Closure”

A Port Phillip Council brochure circulated among Victorian state MPs describes St Kilda’s iconic Palais Theatre as facing “imminent risk of closure.” The brochure, titled Saving the Palais, claims $15 million of state funds are needed just to keep the famous theatre open in the short term.

According to a report by The Age, the brochure also recommends the government spend another $25 million to keep the Palais running over the long term. Scaffolding is currently being erected around the historic beachside concert venue and will reportedly remain there indefinitely.

“If we don’t act now, The Palais faces imminent closure,” the brochure claims. Meanwhile, Port Phillip Mayor Amanda Stevens claims that “significant building issues” have been identified as needing “immediate attention,” including repairs to the external structure and an electrical upgrade.

However, former mayor Dick Gross has dubbed the council’s funding push “government by stunt” and part of a fear campaign designed to make the council look like as though it is taking action. Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the former mayor, the council, and the venue’s current leasee all have different views about what should happen to the Palais.

Palais chief executive Neil Croker said there is no issue with visiting the venue, but that government could provide limited funding to help restoration. He did not back the council’s $15 million demand, instead suggesting the state extend his company’s lease in exchange for funding renovations.

There has long been contention over the development of The Palais and the surrounding area. The theatre was earmarked for a $20 million restoration as part of a plan to develop an entertainment precinct next door, but plans were scrapped after the plan proved unpopular with locals.

Gross has insisted that “state governments simply do not take responsibility for heritage theatres” and that renovations should be paid for by “private investment facilitated by a foresightful government.” The future of the beloved venue, which will host upcoming performances from Boy & Bear, Angus & Julia Stone, Rodriguez, comedian Chelsea Handler, and more, remains unclear.

Gallery: Ben Howard – Melbourne, Palais Theatre 30/07/14

Photos by Nikki Williams

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