History of the Sunset Lounge
The Sunset Roof Garden and Grill opened as a first-floor service station with auto storage, gas pump and second floor roof garden and grill.
The Sunset Royale Night Club came to fruition in 1933 as an entertainment venue envisioned by Robert L. Saunders. Building upon the existing concrete block structure, the Sunset was enhanced to include a first-floor bar and lounge, second floor ballroom with a mezzanine level and elevated stage. It 1942 it was advertised in the nationally circulating Crisis magazine as the Sunset Auditorium, the largest fireproof dance hall in the state.
The next generation would assume ownership in 1948, as Saunders sold the business to his nephew, Dennis Starks. Both Dennis and Thelma would own and operate the (then) Sunset Cocktail Lounge until their deaths. Although the upstairs dance hall was converted to apartments in 1977, the downstairs lounge continued in use as a bar until it’s closing in 2018.
The Sunset was declared “The Cotton Club of the South.” In its heyday, the club was reported to be the “largest fireproof dance hall in the south owned and operated by Colored People.” In the era of the Big Band, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Bill Doggett packed the Sunset.
The “Sunset Auditorium”: During this time, the Sunset hosted many nationally known jazz musicians including Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald. The adjacent roof garden and patio was demolished to construct a small apartment building directly to the east.
The “Sunset Cocktail Lounge & Sunset Royal Apartments”: The bar and lounge was converted to a disco club. James Brown, Dizzy Gillepsie, and Ike & Tina Turner thrilled audiences. The second floor ballroom was converted to eight apartments and the mezzanine is removed to allow for 3rd floor apartments.
The “Sunset Lounge”: A lounge and bar on the first floor continued in operation. In 2016, the CRA acquired the property and began engaging community members on plans for the building’s rehabilitation and surrounding land development. The Sunset Lounge officially closed in 2018 to prepare for construction. In December 2019, the city of West Palm Beach and CRA held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction.
West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
401 Clematis Street,
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
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