Dance Hall Days
STORY BY RICHARD CORNISH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD CORNISH AND ROWENA NAYLOR
The Palais-Hepburn has been reborn and it is beautiful. The 92-year-old dance hall in Hepburn Springs’ main drag has undergone refurbishment and remodelling and has emerged as a smooth, mature and luxurious palace of entertainment. Richard Fanale is one half of the team behind the revamp, along with his business partner Brendan Wykes. Richard is a former furniture importer and interior designer. The family that owns the building brought him onto the Palais project last year to breathe new life into the old girl. The former dance hall turned modern music venue had seen better days and the downstairs loos had a reputation that preceded them.
“I did not start with a master plan,” says Richard as he sits in a comfortable velvet upholstered chair in the lounge by the foyer. We are surrounded by plush furnishings, richly coloured deep blue carpet underfoot, warm lighting from above lots of discreet reflective surfaces to catch glimpses of others in the room. “I worked with the building, letting its old walls and shapes inform the decisions I was making.” He stops short of saying that the Palais was telling him how to redecorate it – but you feel that was where he was heading. During this period Richard began to feel an idea growing inside his brain. He describes how a gradual, natural progression made him realise that the natural way forward was for him to buy the business from the owners.
He had once been a chef and worked around Europe for 10 years and had vowed to himself never to do hospitality ever again. “Slowly a business model evolved,” he says, a negroni with fat blocks of ice sitting front of him. “It was a slow revelation, but I could see how I could work with the Palais,” remembers Richard.
The new iteration of the Palais sees the stage of the main theatre wrapped in deep blue velvet curtains and the downlit bar a smooth vision of gold and silver. The classical frieze above has been freed of its former skin of pink paint. With small tables and balloon backed chairs lining the walls they leave the sprung hardwood dance floor free for perfect sight lines to the stage. Next door to this is the lounge bar, a more intimate and set up for solo acts and duos. The new wine bar is a luxurious addition to the local hospitality scene. Softly lit with a stone topped bar and lined with chair, tables and couches, the space is set up for a place to come to meet people, have a drink or two and be seen. The wine list reflects Richard’s love of both local and European wines along with a good selection of cocktails. The food offering is elegant and simple: charcuterie, cheese, small plates. Later in the season high tea will be served.
Although the new Palais-Hepburn was christened with the inaugural Circus and Cabaret Festival in November, the real, big opening happens on February 22. This is a free event that starts at 7pm and presents cabaret artist Miss Sina King and is followed by DJ Hotwheels playing until late. This is followed the next day with Dan Sultan. Come March, Palais-Hepburn will become a hub for the Chillout Festival. In the meantime, come in for a drink - the bar is open.
111 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs; 03 53481000 Thu-Sat 12pm-1am, Wed & Sun 12pm-11pm; palais-hepburn.com