Thursday, September 15, 2016

Downtown Update: Church Street

Back in 2012 the Blog had an article titled "Nightmare on Church Street". It was about all the empty storefronts along Church Street. So we're overdue for an update. Has Church Street improved any during the past four years? I'd say yes, but there is still a lot of opportunity. Let's begin at downtown's anchor, the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic and many large concerts.  This does draw thousands downtown although it seems many don't arrive early or linger afterwards. Just to the west of this the Orlando City Lions are building a soccer stadium. 
Amway Center itself has 180 Skytop Lounge, an indoor-outdoor upscale lounge that we've reported on.  Directly across Church Street from Amway, this parking garage should be demolished soon to make room for the Orlando Magic's new festival marketplace which will bring bars, restaurants and perhaps some shopping to the area.
Proceeding east and into the old Church Street Station complex, Harry Buffalo's is a restaurant with a bar aspect. This has been here a half dozen years now, replacing Louisiana-flavored Mojo's.
Immediately adjacent is Ceviche, another long-standing downtown anchor that is primarily a Spanish restaurant with entertainment.
Across the street is the beautifully appointed Cheyenne Saloon, star venue of the old Church Street Station as well as Rosie O’ Grady’s Good Time Emporium. It is used for special events and rentals.  Some may recall when Paris Hilton's Club Paris operated in here briefly.
And adjacent this is the equally beautiful Bumby Block Building, now home to Hamburger Mary's.
The space for lease was once home to disco Phineas Phoggs Balloon Works.
More recently it was home to Blog-favorite Bliss Ultra Lounge. When everyone in town was playing Hip Hop, Bliss played EDM! They lost their lease and had to close. Since whoever is in charge of decisions wants a restaurant in there and not a club, it's been empty now for years!
Crossing the SunRail tracks to the 55 West complex, The Rusty Spoon restaurant has been a success at this location.
Adjacent the tracks on the other side, Ferg's Depot finally opened earlier this year and it seems to be drawing a following with mellow live music and several bars. That's the SunRail station on the far right.
Five Guys tried to make a go of it in this square but didn't and Graffiti Junction sports bar & restaurant seems to be doing much better!
Amura is also in this section. Hooters used to be up there!
This adjacent venue has been empty for over 5 years!
Touch Nightclub used to be in there but couldn't find a niche.
Directly above it, Baby Grand's dueling piano bar had a brief run.
Back across Church Street, Heat Tandoor operated in this space but lasted less than a year.  They couldn't decide if they wanted to be a restaurant or a club. The lack of patrons decided their fate.  It was a beautiful setting though.
If the ground floor space that housed Heat couldn't make it, I don't know who thought they could have a successful restaurant/club directly above on the second floor!  Loft 55 did not last long either.
Rok Room is still around back.
Here's another FAIL. Antigua was a large club on Church Street that was well-themed and drew large crowds.  Whoever got the lease closed the place instead of improving on it.
They created Don Jefe's Tequila Parlour. Then, because the space was so huge, they split it into two venues, opening Dubliner Irish Social House in the other half.  Both have been closed for more than a year now, although they keep the signs lit!
This place has been a success for years now! Narrow but tall, Chiller's has alcoholic slurpees downstairs, Beer Belly Brewery is in the middle with beer and beer pong and then the roof top features Latitudes. DJ music.
Next door is Native Social Bar. For awhile there they were bringing in a lot of Breaks and D&B DJ's but that stopped so I don't know what's up.
Previous to Native, the spot was home to Mako's, home of the shark bucket.
And next to that is Schumann's Jager Haus, a German-themed bar with food where I've heard you can get a good schnitzel!
This replaced a Top 40/Hip Hop club called Dragon Room.
Club 23 is still upstairs, currently leased out and operating as Pink Orlando. I think it's gone through two incarnations under that name so maybe we'll see "23" return again!
Lastly, at the corner of Church Street and Orange Avenue, we have a new Wahlburgers. The lines have been so long that I've not tried it but it's a great new addition to downtown! So as you can see, things have improved along Church Street but there is room for even more improvement.

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