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The El Mocambo is up for sale at almost $4 million

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 7, 2014

toronto el mocamboAn iconic piece of Toronto's music heritage is back on the real estate market. The owners of the El Mocambo are, once again, selling up, asking almost $4 million for the Spadina Avenue bar and music venue.

According to the listing, which also touts the liquor license and zoning, there is "redevelopment potential" for the building and its famous neon sign. "Many great options for a landmark site," it reads. "Great for student housing, a fitness club, boutique hotel, etc." There's certainly enough space - more than 1,400 square metres over four floors.

Last summer, the El Mo was closed for several months of renovations, during which time it acquired a roof-top deck and new stage. Sam Grosso, who co-owns the building with Marco Petrucci, left the business in May 2013 but has since returned. According to a former staff member, the decision may not be entirely amicable.

"I would love to keep going with the El Mocambo I just need some investors or partners," Grosso wrote in the comment section of this post. "I have some great ideals that would take it to a new level. I really do not want to sell it. I love live music [and] I love the El Mocambo."

The El Mocambo opened in 1948 and saw its heyday in the 1960s and 70s. Bob Marley, Debbie Harry and Blondie, The Ramones, U2, and Billy Idol all played the main stage. The Rolling Stones performed there under the stage name The Cockroaches in 1977 and were famously denied the chance to return due to a strict (now rescinded) indie-only policy.

The famous neon palm tree sign was restored at a cost of $20,000 in 2012.

The buyers will become approximately the 10th owners of the venue since it opened.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



W. K. Lis / March 7, 2014 at 06:50 pm
Darn. Need another $3,999,990.00 more.
gbenji / March 7, 2014 at 06:59 pm
The El Mocondos?
pluggernaut / March 7, 2014 at 07:31 pm
jameson / March 7, 2014 at 07:35 pm
I like how the agent puts in legal non-conforming use. nice.
Ron / March 7, 2014 at 07:58 pm
If it was an old church I'd predict arson within the next few months, but it's attached to other buildings, so I'm going to guess the offer will go away after a few weeks, and come back about 1.5 million less in a year or so.
Ace / March 7, 2014 at 09:31 pm
The sign is worth that!!!! Seen many a good band there!
Tony40+ / March 7, 2014 at 09:45 pm
Let's just put this place to rest already. Its no longer the iconic El No. Its changed hands so many times now and nothing iconic has really happened there in decades other then some nostalgic memories of bands replaying there, Forget it there are enough live music venues in the city, most of us that remember the iconic days are now staying in most evenings with our kids. The new generation has new places that are becoming iconic to them. Please don't try and revive the Elmo as a bar for those of us that are 40+ and maybe gonna visit it once a year. Time to rename it, or turn it into a restaurant or store. The iconic days are over and I'd rather go to a restaurant there that maybe has some photos from the live music days on the wall if I want to remember the iconic days instead of trying to recreate the iconic days of yesteryear
Ironic replying to a comment from Tony40+ / March 7, 2014 at 10:13 pm
You must really like the word "iconic".
Tony40+ replying to a comment from Ironic / March 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm
Yeppers!!! You got it, everyones only interested in this place cause its some sort of icon from the 70's
Tony40+ replying to a comment from Ironic / March 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm
Well I did say iconic like 8 times in that rant.... GIT-R-DONE!
Aaron / March 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm
If someone is super rich, they could turn it into a home (not condo).
sam / March 8, 2014 at 01:32 am
I would love to keep going with the el mocambo i just need some investors or partners

I have some great ideals that would take it to a new level

I really do not want to sell it. I love live music & I love the el mocambo

Sam co-owner of the el mocambo
local replying to a comment from sam / March 8, 2014 at 07:31 am
It's both nice and sad to hear your heart is still in it, Sam. I for one deeply appreciate all the money and work you put into the old girl. Despite what Mr. Iconic up there has to say, these institutions deserve to be preserved, even if it no longer fits their lifestyle. The world is bigger than you Tony40+. Every time I blink, I learn that yet another piece of Toronto's dwindling heritage is up for demolition or "redevelopment". The ones with no love for the city cry, "Progress is good!", while the rest of us hang our heads in dismay as we look around at our city that's unrecognizable from what it was even 5 years ago, let alone 40. Some of that change has been good, but so much of it has been so very bad. Sam, I sincerely hope your white knight swoops in to save the El Mo.
John / March 8, 2014 at 09:28 am
Break this sucker down
Terry / March 8, 2014 at 09:43 am
The original owners of the iconic days cashed in awhile ago and moved on for the best. The real question is - is it profitable? Sometimes throwing good money after bad moneynis not a good thing. Especially if your expecting investors to get involved. Investors will want to know how long it will take to make their money back and make a profit of their investment. Are there already investors involved that own a piece of the business? Are the investing in the business only or the building? Is the only way for the owners and investors to eventually get thier money back is by selling it off? Is that's what's happening now? Is the business for sale for 4 million and/or does that include the building?

If everyone is so passionate about this why not start a kick starter campaign and get Torontos music industry to raise investment dollars?
Jess / March 8, 2014 at 09:52 am

Sam also owns the Cadillac lounge I wonder if his business partner Marco Petrucci is still involved or if he pulled out.

Sounds like it was a bad investment to begin with, with not enough capital to do any of these 'great ideas'. Sam hasn't even owned it for 2 years and its back on the market?

Its a bad idea to invest your dollars for nostagia not profit.

Pope Biff replying to a comment from sam / March 8, 2014 at 11:52 am
Good for Sam for trying to keep it going. I hit the ElMo probably three times a year, and drink plenty o' beer when I'm there. I'd say a great option could be something like The Gladstone--boutique hotel with music and fun downstairs. Although, last time I was at The Gladstone, the steroid muscle-tshirt set with their high-heeled ho's had invaded. Yuck! But I digress: The ElMo has plenty of punk/new wave/classic rock history, and it fits in nicely with today's beer-drinking, music loving folks. Hopefully, the rich pony up and it can be saved. We sure don't need another glass box built.

dan taco / March 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm
Sorry but this club has outlived it's usefulness. It was never a place that my friends and I liked going to back in the day. Rude staff and biker bouncers ruled that place in the 70's.
DrBOP / March 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm
Caught the '78 Elvis Costello and the Attractions twenty-second "Hello Toronto" bit of patter.....NO breaks between songs.....35-minutes and they were gone....NO encore.

Gregg / March 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm
We only need 10,000 people to donate/kick starter $100 each and we'll have $1,000,000 to invest in the business. LETS DO THIS PEOPLE!!!
Troy / March 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm
Yes some great bands played there but if the Elmo didn't exist the shows would've been booked elsewhere at another venue. Is it the memories of the bands and shows, or the location and the sign?
I saw some great bands at the concert hall too but its now a CTV building - so be it. Rents in the city are going up and this is the fallout - are you all willing to pay an increased admission/ticket price and increased drink prices to help establishment survive? Or do you still go where the drinks are cheap?
suzanne / March 8, 2014 at 02:18 pm
i live next door to the el mocambo and as much as i respect the history that has gone down in that building, i'm ready for something new. it seems to be a pretty great space, and i'd love to see someone take advantage of the rooftop terrace (which has a pretty great view of the city, but is currently inhabited by raccoons).... i honestly i can't see a hotel moving in though, considering the fact that the building is attached to another on one side (who wants a hotel room without windows). hoping someone has the money to invest into it and turn it into something decent.
Toronto Jim / March 8, 2014 at 09:56 pm
Why is the Horseshoe and the Silver Dollar still around but the ElMo is up for sale? Saw the Ramones at the ElMo. Who screwed things up before the last owner took over the place and tried to turn it into a dance studio?!!! At least the current owners want it to be a music venue.
Ruby / May 6, 2014 at 02:12 pm
My father designed the El Mocambo sign right after he graduated architecture at U of T.
That's all I have to say about that.
This fact didn't get me in when I was underage, go figure!
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