Thomas Donall, owner of the Palace Restaurant and Bar on Ocean Drive, recalls business before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it: “Our Friday, Saturday and Sunday brunches were packed as were our legendary Sunday tea dances and all the events happening at the rooftop pool bar.”
They had even just expanded their shows with new drag performers. Then COVID-19 struck and all non-essential businesses in Miami were forced to shut down. “I thought that after a few weeks, we’d be back to normal. No one could have anticipated that we would be in this quarantine for so long,” he says.
Being closed for so long has killed the bottom line for Palace. “The rent bills haven’t stopped and without income, everyone at the Palace is feeling the squeeze,” Donall explains. He’s had to lay off nearly all of his staff to stay afloat. He says it was the hardest thing he has ever had to do as the Palace is the sole source of income for many of its drag performers and back end employees.
To help ease some of their financial pain, Palace has been hosting virtual Saturday and Sunday brunch performances on Instagram. TP Lords and Tiffany Fantasia emcee with a variety of Palace’s fabulous cast members delivering performances from their homes.
Palace has also launched a Gofundme page to help raise money for its performers, bartenders, servers, and front and back of the house staff members. “We encourage our patrons to contribute if they can. The staff are all very grateful for any contribution.”
While Palace remains closed, Donall is working on updates and improvements to the space. The entire bar has been cleaned from top to bottom, inside and out. He and the employees he has been able to keep on staff have re-painted the outside façade, all of the tables, and they’re even re-painting the performer’s dressing area so the drag queens have a fresh new space to call their own when they return.
“I think a by-product of all of this is going to be change in behavior,” Donall reflects. “This experience has been very humbling for all of us. It shows that in the blink of an eye, anything can change and everything can be taken away without notice, including our freedom.”
Donall is looking ahead to when the Palace doors open again, which he says will be as soon as safety allows. “My entire staff are ready to rock the Palace house down. We all cannot wait for the thrill of welcoming everyone back together again.”
Palace is located at 1052 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. For more information, visit http://Palacesouthbeach.com.