The El Mocambo's neon palm tree is back on Spadina Avenue
The venue is scheduled to re-open in the spring of 2019
The glowing neon palm tree that once greeted some of the world's biggest rock acts during their stops in Toronto is back — sort of.
On Monday, a new version of the El Mocambo's iconic sign was delivered to the venue, just days before it will be mounted and turned on for the first time since 2016.
The sign's palm fronds and coconuts — which first lit up the corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street in 1948 — have been carefully recreated in the updated version. The lights are scheduled to be switched on this Thursday.
"It was a lot of pressure, but I think the guys did an absolutely incredible job," said El Mocambo owner Michael Wekerle of the new palm, which was built by Pride Signs in Cambridge, Ont.
During its heyday, the "El Mo" hosted concerts by some of the biggest acts in the world, including a surprise show by The Rolling Stones in 1977. U2, Lou Reed and Blondie also performed "under the neon palms."
But it was never a big money-maker. The club changed hands several times and it went through a number of makeovers through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Wekerle, a tech entrepreneur and TV personality, bought the venue for $3.78 million in 2015 just as it was supposed to close for good.
The original plan to restore the sign was scrapped after an inspection revealed decades of damage to the marquee, so Wekerle says he went with the next best thing.
"[Pride Signs] painstakingly took every dimension. You look at the wear and tear of the previous sign, they've tried to replicate that," Wekerle explained, adding that it wasn't feasible to install programmable lights or energy efficient bulbs in the original version.
While the old palm will no longer welcome visitors at the front door, concert-goers will be able to catch a glimpse of the original sign inside the venue, where it has been split in half to bookend the stage.
'El Mo' set to open in 2019
The El Mocambo was closed and put up for sale in 2014. It is currently in the midst of a multi-year refurbishment and was originally scheduled to open in the summer of 2017.
Wekerle now says the doors will open in the Spring of 2019. He refused to divulge any more details about what the interior will look like.
"It is going to be spectacular," he said. "The building was in disrepair for many years. We more or less took it all down."