Palace, the iconic gay restaurant and bar on Ocean Drive that is world-renowned for its live drag performances, is celebrating its last weekend at the corner on 12th Street and Ocean Drive with a splash, ending three decades of what can only be described as a remarkable history.
Plans call for Palace to re-open at another unidentified location.
It’s fitting that the final celebration will be a big one this July 4th weekend for the establishment which has served the famous — and the infamous — at its 1200 Ocean Drive location.
A long-time popular haunt for celebrities — Andy Cohen, Nene Leakes, and Perez Hilton have been spotted dining outside the eatery just recently, and in the old days Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, Madonna and Princess Diana were frequently spotted at the restaurant.
Steve Palsar launched Palace in February 1988. Miami was a much different city and at that time there were no other restaurants on the Drive. Everyone thought Palsar was crazy to introduce one, but he did. Palace opened at 1200 Ocean Drive — Palsar’s “little slice of heaven,” as he called it — and it would usher in a whole new era that would eventually lead to cafes up and down the street.
“The truth of the matter is that this situation presents us with a fantastic opportunity to grow,” says owner Thomas Donall. “We’re going to find a new place that has the same character but offers a bigger performance space that better suits the needs of our changing community.”
It was a pleasure to sit down with Thomas for this exclusive Hotspots interview:
Q: When and why did you move down to South Florida?
A: I had been coming down to South Beach for 15 years and fell in love with [the place], so I decided to make the move. I made the decision to buy a condo on Ocean Drive.
Q: What did you do for work before you moved here?
A: I was a metal artist for many years and then I had an opportunity to open my own club. I designed and built two clubs in Michigan and basically furnished the clubs with all of my designs.
Q: What made you decide to purchase the Palace 10 years ago?
A: I walked by it so many times going to the gym, and I felt the place needed some TLC. I gave the manager my card to give to the owners and the transaction happened three weeks later.
Q: What was the first thing you changed after purchasing the Palace?
A: I spent the first weeks cleaning and painting giving the place the love it deserved and got the front bar open. In that time-frame I replaced the sound system and staff. We as a team worked together to make it a fun place for the community to call home.
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Q: How has the Palace changed in the last 10 years?
A: I brought in shows seven days a week and became part of the community by being involved with a lot of the agencies in Miami (Task Force, Care Resource, and others). I also started the block parties three times a year, which are huge and raise money for important organizations. Palace has been a platform for our new LGBTQ generation and has opened many doors for our house entertainers such as Latrice Royale, Tiffany Fantasia, DJ Cindel, DJ Deanne, Noel Leon and many more.
Q: Are you excited about the move of Palace?
A: The move is challenging, but things happen for a reason. It’s exciting in that we have an opportunity to take the Palace to the next level.
Q: There are so many rumors about where the Palace is going to move to. Do you want to comment on that?
A: I have some places in mind, but I am still looking and haven’t made a decision yet. I promise, however, the community will be happy when it’s all said and done.
Q: What should the South Florida audience expect from the closing party of Palace at its current location this Tuesday, July 4?
A: We will have many give-a-ways (Palace hats, t-shirts, tanks, etc.), two brunches, and after the second brunch a block party that will be over the top! This includes International DJ Dan Slater (Australia), GO-GO Dancers, and drag performers. This will be a block party with amazing sound and lighting production, which will be followed by an incredible fireworks display sponsored by the Ocean Drive Business Association. The block party start at 4 p.m. to midnight with fireworks at 9 p.m.
Tuesday, July 4 will be the final day of Palace at 1200 Ocean Drive and they will be bringing in special lights, sound and production for the last dance. “This is not farewell,” confirms Donall. “It’s a ‘see ya soon.’” Those who wish to be among the first to know about the new location should text the word PALACE to 64600.