from the Archives

French Casino nightclub

The French Casino nightclub at 1235 Washington Avenue was built in 1934. Later converted to a motion picture house in 1937 by noted architect Thomas Lamb, it was renamed Cinema Casino Theatre. The rear lobby (which was surrounded by a large mural) had comfortable sofas to sit in while waiting for the show to begin. Much of the auditorium was decorated in reds. For a while it became a $1 theatre mostly running double feature MGM 1950’s film. Sadly, that area of South Beach had declined badly and the theatre closed in 1977. The owners decided to demolish the lobby in ’78 and convert it into three stores when local preservationists unsuccessfully tried to stop this. In 1983 preservationists stepped in again and efforts were made to restore the lobby to its original grandeur. After a $3.5 million restoration of the Art Deco Cinema Theatre it became the “Z nightclub”, where thousands of young dancers in South Beach would go every weekend. Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, and Miami Sound Machine were just some of the singers that performed there. Some of the balcony Art Deco/elements were retained. Today it is the Copa City Club. Included are archival black and white photos of the interior and exterior, a color shot of the interior a few years prior to being gutted for Club Z/Club 1235 and a Z Club membership card.