EDITORIAL: The Demise Of Downtown Orlando Nightlife

This is the Walgreens store located at the busy corner of Orange Avenue and Church Street. It’s only been there for a few years but they’ve announced they’re closing down. Some will say it couldn’t be profitable because it didn’t have a pharmacy in the small space but we’ll propose that it’s for another reason: too much shoplifting plus the homeless parked outside (see photo). We don’t know that this is the reason but that’s our theory.

So this coming Monday, March 20th, the City of Orlando will likely approve a new ordinance that will greatly increase the cost for downtown bars and clubs to do business. You can view the City’s complete slideshow here and publication Orlando Weekly gives a really good summary of the issues and the proposal here.

When we were recently downtown we personally witnessed the city’s Code Enforcement staff at two different outdoor venues using decibel meters, measuring how loud the music was. Both venues allegedly failed. The slide show barely mentions Chapter 42, “Noise”, yet it does propose that if a club has 3 listed violations during any 3 month period, their license to do business can be suspended. There are numerous transgressions that count and Noise is just one of them.
This proposal is going to shutter downtown outdoor venues such as Elixir Bar and Ace Cafe and rooftop venues such as Aero Bar, Celine rooftop and High Tide, to name a few. In addition, while downtown needs much better security, the proposal does little to create that. It puts the onus and expense on the bars and clubs to improve their security but does nothing about security out on the streets which is where all the shootings and robberies have occurred, not inside anywhere!
Last summer several entry points were created around the downtown CBD and everyone entering had to walk through those points. No one had to show an ID (which would have made the plan unconstitutional) but they had dogs to sniff for weapons, supposedly. Chatter at the time indicated the city planned to purchase airport style weapons-detection systems but whatever happened to that plan? The checkpoints are no longer there. But what is needed downtown is to rid the CBD of all but legally carried weapons. The current proposal does nothing to cure downtown’s ills because those bringing illegal weapons there aren’t going into any clubs; they’re hanging out on the street causing the problems. Meanwhile, Wahlburgers closed, Walgreens is closing and “retail” is limited to a few convenience stores, smoke shops and our bars and clubs. And they want to shut them down too.
I’ve always been amazed by people who move next to an airport and then complain about aircraft noise. The same goes for all those new residents of downtown Orlando. They move into a busy downtown where outdoor music is prevalent and known about ahead of time but then call and complain. The City needs to be working with bar and club owners to reach joint-solutions about noise and crime, not just make up their own rules which further erodes what little there is down there. We urge the City to hold off on this proposal until better ideas can be reached that will make downtown safer and better for all.