Live music fans are in uproar upon hearing news of plans to demolish Melbourne’s Palace Theatre to develop luxury apartments in submissions made to the State Government for the development of a $180 million 5-star hotel complex.

Melbourne’s music community was already concerned about the future of the 2,000 capacity venue after it was put up for public auction in mid-June last year, eventually snapped up by Chinese property investment firm Jinshan Investments, but owner Xuan Xu coyly revealed last Friday night plans to raze the Palace to construct Australia’s first ‘W Hotel’: a 205-room, 145 apartment complex built across 20,000 square metres.

It wasn’t long before supporters rallied to the Palace Theatre’s defence, with a ‘Save The Palace Theatre’ Facebook group springing up over the weekend; already attaining a whopping 20,000 ‘likes’ and still growing. Meanwhile an online petition to Planning Minister Matthew Guy to rescue the site of the former Metro Nightclub at the top end of Bourke Street is just 600 signatures shy of it’s 14,000 target, merely days after the Palace news was announced.

The Planning Minister has said that he will not approve the submitted plans at its currently 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,” Mr Matthew Guy told ABC News on Saturday according to the Melbourne Heritage listing. “It is too tall, it is in the wrong location.” “The developer is dreaming if he thinks the government is going to approve this in the form in which it has been submitted.” Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy

But Minister Guy’s comments aren’t confirmation that plans by developers can’t be shaped and sculpted until they do satisfy Government approval, meaning that the venue is still under risk. Though the former Metro is partially covered as a Melbourne Heritage-listed site, only its facade is protected as a heritage precinct leaving its interior technically vulnerable.

Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan has thrown his support behind the Palace rescue efforts, acknowledging that the online groundswell demonstrates how “Victorians love their venues,” referring to the booming Facebook and petition campaigns.

In a statement to Tone Deaf, Mr Donovan highlights the importance of the venue as “one of the few medium sized venues that can host the bigger Australian acts as well as international touring bands. Its absence would leave a huge gap for 2,000 capacity standing room venues, which would be a huge blow after losing the former Palace in St Kilda.”

The removal of the Palace would leave a gulf in Melbourne’s venue capacity range, leaving only the likes of the 1,050 capacity Billboard, the 1,500 capacity Forum Theatre, and the 2,896 seats of St Kilda’s The Palais for promoters left to choose from, either downsizing or upsizing their capacities, while competing with other cultural events like the comedy and film festival.

The government acknowledged the economic and cultural contribution of a live music scene that contributes more than $1 billion to the economy when it amended the Liquor Act’s objects,” added Mr Donovan, referring to Music Victoria’s report that revealed live music did bigger business than the AFL.

“People power and a looming election conspired to save The Tote, which was buckling under recently implemented draconian liquor licensing laws,” says Donovan. “But this is a different scenario – like the East Brunswick Club, a new owner has done their sums and realised they can make more money out of apartments.”

(Photo Credit: Justin McManus. Source: The Age)