Miami, FL — On Friday, February 15, Palace, the iconic gay restaurant and bar on Ocean Drive that is world-renowned for its live drag performances, will celebrate its thirty first anniversary with a show-stopping grand gala. South Beach Miami drag stars Joanna James & TP Lords will host the celebration, with a special guest DJ and live performances by The Palace Divas.
Palace first launched in February 1988. At the time, there were no other restaurants on the Drive and everyone thought founder Steve was crazy to introduce one, but he did. Palsar’s “little slice of heaven,” as he often referred to Palace, opened at 1200 Ocean Drive and ushered in a whole new era that eventually lead to cafes up and down the street.
Immediately upon opening, Palace began catering to the South Beach’s gay population. The gay community had adopted the 12th Street Beach across the street as their own, and the party carried over, with Palace regularly hosting T-dances and drag shows.
Around that time, designer Gianni Versace moved to Ocean Drive. He frequented Palace regularly, often bringing friends like Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, Madonna and Princess Diana to dine with him. As Ocean Drive became a hot spot for fashion models, photoshoots and music videos, Palace stood at its epicenter.
Sadly, Versace’s untimely death would forever change Ocean Drive and by the time Thomas Donall, a nightclub owner and designer from Michigan, took over Palace in 2007, the restaurant and bar were in disrepair. “The kitchen was outdated, the sound was bad; the place needed major renovation and re-branding,” he remembers. “I was semi-retired and not sure I was up for the task.”
He somehow found the strength and introduced daily drag on-the-street shows to Palace as well as weekly T-Dances. He and launched its popular drag brunch and during big gay celebrations like Pride, Winter Party, and White Party Weekends, Donall created free block parties that eventually grew so large, he had to acquire permits from the city to shut down the entire 12th street block to accommodate the crowds.
Palace became a place for a new breed of celebrity: names like Andy Cohen, Nene Leakes, and Perez Hilton were regularly spotted.
It came as a shock to everyone in the community when on April 25, Donall announced via Facebook that Palace would be staging its final show. A developer had bought the building that housed Palace and planned to “enhance the property, including improving the building’s prominence and accessibility.” Rather closing temporarily, Donall opted to find a new home for Palace.
The final performance at 1200 Ocean Drive took place on Tuesday, July 4 with Donall promising “This is not farewell. It’s a ‘see ya soon.’”
He stayed true to his word. On Friday, November 24, the queens of Palace kicked up their heels at Palace’s new location at 1052 Ocean Drive.
“The new Palace is bigger and better than ever,” declares Tiffany T. Fantasia. “Finally, we have a beautiful new space to really give something to all our fans’ asses!”
“1052 is better suited for the types of shows that we do,” agrees drag performer Joanna James. “We’re still out there on the sidewalk gathering in tourists, but we got more space here and it’s a little more glamorous.”
“The truth of the matter is it was time to move to a new Palace,” Donall reflects today. “We needed to grow to better serve our changing community”.
“The last thirty one years have been pure magic,” he continues. “I’m excited to see what the next thirty have in store