Dance Cave is a decades-old late night club open almost exclusively at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, housed above live music venue Lee’s Palace in a hundred-year-old building.
The dance hall is known for non-stop throwback DJ sets playing indie and alternative, and is frequented by students from nearby universities, especially because cover is free before midnight or with a student ID, and still cheap at $10 otherwise.
The one-of-a-kind space is indeed cave-like, high sloping ceilings decorated with trippy, primal-feeling line designs that resonate with Al Runt’s iconic colourful murals covering the exterior of the building.
The layout of the space is unlike a lot of other clubs, five picnic tables seating about six each at one end of a dance floor flanked on both sides by recessed booths.
Oh, and behind the picnic tables, of course there’s a beat-up old foosball table, a loonie per play.
Draft beer ($6.50) includes pedestrian Canadian, Belgian Moon, Lagunitas, and Pilsner, though there are other options for tall cans ($8.25) and bottled beverages starting at $6.
Most seem to opt for efficient mixed drinks, however. It’s credit or cash only, but there is an ATM right on site.
Since I never actually came here as a kid myself, to me the scene most closely resembles one of my middle school dances. DJ Trevor, off to the side of a stage crowded with dancing kids, spins the likes of MGMT’s “Kids” and Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” (which everyone screams along to, especially the pre-nup part).
Apparently we have entrepreneur Ed Silverberg to thank for converting the building from a movie theatre to a cabaret in the late sixties, which included turning the upper-level balcony into a speakeasy space which is now Dance Cave.
The venue became Lee’s Palace with Dance Cave above it in the 80s, run by a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur whose last name was really Lee. In 2006 both spaces were taken over by Collective Concerts, who also now run the Horseshoe.
Dance Cave actually continues to pay homage to its history with events like Showdown: A Game Show Cabaret. While Friday and Saturday nights The Cave is pretty much guaranteed to be open for dance music every week, the club is open the occasional Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday for other DJ sets and live performances.