Real Estate

The El Mocambo is close to being sold, and its days are probably numbered

The El Mocambo is close to being sold, and its days are probably numbered
(Image: Robert Taylor)

The owners of the El Mocambo are planning the music hall’s farewell show. A buyer has made a conditional offer on the legendary club, and if the deal goes ahead, it could bring an end to more than a century of live music at 464 Spadina Avenue.

“There’s an offer in, it looks pretty good, but it’s not finalized,” says Sam Grosso, co-owner of the club. “In commercial sales something could happen at the 11th hour and it could just not be sold.”

The music hall, which became synonymous with rock, punk, and new wave music in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and which at times hosted performances by the Rolling Stones, Billy Idol, The Ramones and Blondie, has been on the market since March for close to $3.95 million. Its sale price, at this point, is unclear.

The prospective new owners, Grosso says, will likely have different plans for the 166-year-old building. “They’re not in the bar or live-music business,” he says. (The Facebook rumour mill is saying that the building’s new occupant will be a “computer retailer,” but that has yet to be confirmed by anyone close to the deal.)

Grosso has mixed feelings. “I don’t want it to be lost,” he says. “But I’ve knocked on a lot of doors to save it and have come up empty...I’m very sad that it’s being sold.”

The future of the club’s famous neon sign is uncertain. The palm tree isn’t a factor in the negotiations, but Grosso would like to see it remain in place or be preserved elsewhere in the city. He has considered donating it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, if the organization will cover the cost of taking it down.

The tropical green-and-yellow emblem was renovated at considerable cost in 2012, suggesting the venue was headed for a revival after years of ownership changes and financial struggles. The building closed during the Summer of 2013 for structural repairs, installation of a new stage, and the addition of a rooftop patio.

The El Mo’s farewell show is currently scheduled for for November 6. When headliners John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band step off the the stage, it will likely be curtains for the club.

“I’m very upset about the whole situation,” Grosso says. “But I have a young family that I have to look after, and it’s one thing running a business and breaking even, but it’s another thing running a business and losing money every month.”


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