The Palms Café, Brisbane

The Palms Café, established in 1951 by Jerry Palmos, was located in Brisbane’s CBD at 171 Queen Street, next to the Regent Theatre.

Diners at the Palms Café in Queen Street, Brisbane, in the 1950s. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 184664

Born in Greece in 1905, Jerry Palmos came to Australia from Ithaca at the age of 16. He originally settled in Sydney, working as a prawn fisherman, before moving to Brisbane where he met and married his wife, Elizabeth McNeil. Between 1937 and 1941, Jerry Palmos purchased his first shop, located on the corner of Lytton Road and Heidelberg Street at East Brisbane. In partnership with his brother George, he later acquired the Day Dawn Café in Queen Street, the South Pacific Café in Stanley Street South Brisbane, the High Hat in Fortitude Valley, the Black & White Milk Bar on the corner of Queen and Edward Streets, and the Colony Club in Edward Street.

Row of diners seated in booths in the Palms Café, Brisbane. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 9982-0001-0019

In her 2019 book, Brisbane’s Greek cafes : a million malted milks, Toni Risson describes the interior of The Palms – “The Palms was a narrow café with a carpeted floor and stylish modern cubicles along both walls. On the back wall, overlooking the café, was a mural that featured an arched mirror clock flanked by palm trees”. The Palms was sold in 1958.

Jerry Palmos in his Brisbane café, The Palms Café, ca. 1957. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 9982-0001-0018

Exhibition – Meet me at the Paragon

State Library’s upcoming exhibition, Meet me at the Paragon will explore how the creation of American-style cafés enabled Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to carve out a new life in a foreign land. The exhibition will open on 27 September 2019.