Palais Operators 'Bitterly Disappointed' To Be Ousted From Iconic Venue

28 January 2016 | 12:50 pm | Neil Griffiths

Two companies now in the running to take over.

The current operator of St Kilda's iconic Palais Theatre has been dumped by Port Phillip Council and will be replaced by one of two high-profile entertainment companies who will take over in 2017. 

Current chief executive of the Palais Theatre Management Company, Neil Croker, was notified yesterday by the council that the company would be replaced next year, after it took on the role in 2007, by either Live Nation Australasia or Playbill Venue Management.

Speaking to theMusic, Croker said he hoped the work his company had done in the past eight years would have been enough to regain ownership, which included the Palais being named as one of the top 25 highest-grossing venues in the world in 2013. 

"We're very proud of the work we've done. We've livened the venue, we've made it a really strong community assest," Croker said. 

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A statement released by Port Phillip Council yesterday read, "The evaluation process is designed to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved for the long term lease of the Palais to secure the significant community, economic, social and cultural benefits associated with the theatre into the future."

The objectives assessed by the council of the three companies (as per the statement) are as follows: 

  • To maintain the site as a live performance venue and cultural icon in St Kilda
  • To maximise the economic, social, health and cultural benefits to the precinct and community
  • To develop a leasing model that enables commercial viability for the tenant and a net positive position for Council
  • To transfer building maintenance, compliance and future upgrade responsibilities/liabilities to the lessee
  • To ensure the use and any development of the site aligns with the development of the St Kilda Triangle
  • For the building to be compliant with contemporary standards and in good condition when the lease expires
  • To preserve the heritage value of the site.

"We put a tender in that we’re really proud of with really strong support from the industry but clearly others have seen a way to spend more money than we could offer and at the end of the day, one of those parties will win and that’s out of my control now," Croker said.

"I'm bitterly disappointed to leave a venue that we've put our heart and soul in to, but that’s the reality of the world."

Croker went on to say that he knew there would be competition when his company's tender ran up.

"We were concerned that others could put a lot of money on the table because they see what the venue is, where we, the operator, know what it costs to refurbish and all that stuff," he said.

"We also were hopeful that our track record to date would weigh heavily on that process but clearly it hasn't weighed heavily enough."

Port Phillip Council and Live Nation Australia declined to make further comment. 

A number of big-name international and local acts have performed at the Palais under Croker's management including Florence & The Machine, Bob Dylan, Courtney Barnett, John Farnham, Chet Faker and more.  

The news comes after the Victorian government announced last year that the Palais would receive nearly $13 million to aid its restoration through to 2017.