Lee's Palace in March 2011 featuring a mural by Alex "Al Runt" Currie.
|Former names||Allen's Bloor Theatre (1919-1923)|
Bloor Theatre (1950s-1960s)
Blue Orchid (1967-1976)
Oriental Palace (1976-1985)
|Address||529 Bloor Street West|
Toronto ON M5S 1Y5
|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Owner||Collective Concerts (Jeff Cohen)|
|Type||Nightclub, music venue|
|Seating type||Standing room|
|Opened||5 September 1985|
The two-floor facility in The Annex neighbourhood has a long history prior to being adapted in September 1985 for its current use as a concert venue and nightclub. While the Lee's Palace live performance venue that accommodates just over 500 guest is on the ground floor, the top floor is occupied by The Dance Cave, a nightclub that on weekends mostly caters to university and college students from the nearby downtown Toronto schools such as University of Toronto, Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College with alt-rock while attracting older patrons during the work week with a fare that includes goth rock, mod music, punk, and indie.
Having been established and owned for 16 years by the Korean Canadian entrepreneur Chong Su Lee a.k.a. Mr. Lee, the venue has since 2001 been owned by Collective Concerts, a Toronto-based music promotions company (owned by Jeff Cohen with partners Ben Pearlman and Bruce Bennett) that also has the Horseshoe Tavern, another iconic Toronto music venue, among its list of assets. In 2006, they also bought the building that houses Lee's Palace.
The building at 529 Bloor Street West, which currently consists of two floors of 5,000 square feet each, dates back to early 1900s and was reportedly a bank at one point as well as a shoemaker shop.
During late 1910s, the building's redesign got initiated by its new owners -- Canadian-based Allen Theatres chain that decided to turn it into a silent film theater. With the redesign executed by the Detroit-based Howard Crane's company, the 782-seat Allen's Bloor Theatre became one of Toronto's (a city of some 200,000 inhabitants at the time) most luxurious suburban movie houses. The undertaking came as part of Allen Theatres' aggressive 1917-1920 expansion into the Toronto marketplace, a period during which they built/redesigned many buildings around the city into theaters such as Allen's Danforth on the Danforth and Allen's Beach Theatre in the Beaches neighbourhood in addition to purchasing many existing theaters like the nearby Madison Picture Palace across the road on Bloor St. and the 1,100-seat Beaver Theatre in the Junction neighbourhood.
By mid 1980s, the building was purchased by Chong Su Lee a.k.a. Mr. Lee, owner of a nearby Stop & Go corner store on Bathurst and Harbord who became interested in the music venue concept through The Cameron House and the 1980s Queen West scene. On Thursday 5 September 1985, Lee's Palace was opened as a music club by Mr. Lee, the venue's namesake, with dancing on the top floor and live music on the main floor, much as it is today. The very first live show at the new venue on its opening night was Handsome Ned. The second live show -- Blue Rodeo, who were booked on Handsome Ned's recommendation -- took place two weeks later on 19 September 1985. The club was open seven days a week initially with Sundays becoming its signature night featuring local Toronto entertainer Frank Fazi's recurring Sunday Night Jam showcase with various local scene participants such as members of Greg Godovitz's Goddo.
Lee's Palace is a Toronto hotspot for live music. Known for its intimacy and strong acoustics, it hosts live music nearly every night of the week. The music genre generally played at Lee's Palace is alternative rock. Canadian music groups such as Moist, Sloan, Our Lady Peace, Barenaked Ladies, and The Tragically Hip have played this venue's tiny stage early in their careers. International stars such as The Verve, Nirvana, Tortoise, Blur, The Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arctic Monkeys and The Magnetic Fields made their Toronto debut at Lee's Palace.
The capacity of the venue is roughly 600 people in the concert area, and more upstairs in the "Dance Cave", the dance club under the same roof. The Dance Cave caters to the alternative rock crowd, playing retro rock, Mod, '60s, Britpop, and indie rock during the week, and straight alternative on the weekends.
As the venue serves alcohol, attendance at concerts and events at Lee's Palace is generally restricted by the laws of the province of Ontario to those 19 years of age or older, although the venue occasionally hosts all-ages shows (usually on weekend afternoons or early evenings) where alcohol is not served.