Downtown Orlando may have survived some big nightlife changes, as three of the major bars that suddenly shut down late last summer have reopened under new names and new management.
Now owned by The Social and Beacham owner Gerard Mitchell, the former Eye Spy, Sky Sixty and Bar-BQ Bar reopened early September as The Patio, Aero and Olde 64 respectively. While The Patio and Aero have changed very little since their days before the closings, Mitchell said, Olde 64 is a completely new establishment — unrecognizable from its days as Bar-BQ Bar.
The Patio, Mitchell said, saw very little changes, save for an update to its drafts menu to include craft beer, and Aero saw mild redecoration, such as cabanas being repainted and plants being added.
Olde 64, however, now boasts a "big-city bar" concept with a very open setup inside and, as Mitchell put it, "every alcohol known to man."
A huge green wall, lined with more than plenty of chairs and tables, greets patrons to their left — sporting a large Olde 64 logo — while a mirrored back wall tricks the eye into thinking the bar is bigger that is is. To the right sits a long, wooden bar where patrons can order a vast variety of cocktails.
"We approached it as a very comfortable place to get a drink," Mitchell said. "I think everyone will be extremely happy."
But while the aesthetics of many of these establishments have changed, old regulars who favored a specific bartender or DJ have little to fear, as Mitchell said roughly 80 percent of the staff has remained at these bars, including DJs.
Whether you had been to the old bars before the shutdown, Mitchell said, such as junior accounting major Josh Lindhurst, or you are going for the first time, each of these bars has something special to offer.
Lindhurst has been to each of these new bars since the reopening and said Aero is his favorite.
"It's more open and I feel it gives me the ability to talk, but also has the music to dance [and] have a good time," Lindhurst said of Aero.
But for Lindhurst, who had been to the bars' previous incarnations, drink prices were the worst change for him.
"I like the change but I found myself going there because of the inexpensive drinks. Now I feel they're just kind of more of the same thing," Lindhurst, who ultimately enjoys the new bars, said, adding that with the bad there is indeed some good. "The best [part about the change] is it's a good atmosphere, especially the rooftop bar. [It's ] just a casual place to hang with two or 10 people."
Despite these big changes and the highly publicized shutting down of these bars' previous — and popular — embodiment, Mitchell said that turnout has been great, especially among the downtown Orlando residents — save for on rainy days.
UCF attendance is still high at the bars , Mitchell said, and all of the new establishments have seen both new — such as Emily Bleier, a senior political science major — and old loyal customers flock to them.
Bleier recently went to Aero for the first time one Thursday night and said she liked both the lounge atmosphere and her cheap drinks.
"It was small, but there were a few lounge areas and a dance floor, but it wasn't that crowded," Bleier said. "I thought it was cool. The fact that it's a rooftop bar is different."
Bleier said she had heard of Sky Sixty before but didn't have a chance to make it before it shut down and reopened. She added that the different type of atmosphere is what she really enjoyed about it.
"It felt nicer than the others bars that you walk right up to off the street," Bleier said. "The crowd is better."