As the weather gets nicer, the dive bars change, moving out of layouts that favor hunkering down amid the Midwestern or East Coast cold, transitioning into inside-outside hybrids that let the drinking spill out into the sun. Orlando is, of course, a great place to witness that phenomenon, some of the city’s dive bars more like elaborate porches with air conditioned buildings attached, though of course the occasional no-window dive bar does exist.
Whiskey Lou’s Lounge
in the city’s Milk District serves as a good example of a hybrid Orlando dive bar, a bit of outdoor space to be sure but the magic coming from the neon-laced exterior marked by the heavy usage of opaque glass blocks that only let the suggestion of light through. The building looks more like a dive bar complex than a standalone drinking establishment, a beacon that dates back to 1969.
Wally’s Bar & Liquors
is another Orlando dive bar standout that demonstrates one of the state’s great benefits, the combo dive bar and to-go package store, in this case one that opens at 7 AM and sells late, serving all manner of drinking requirements. Though closed in 2018, the space was reopened in 2019 with the dive bar’s signature and let’s just say risqué vintage wallpaper intact, a relief for regulars.
Orlando’s continued influx of new residents and entertainment dollars threatens city dive bars from time to time, Hideaway Bar
one such example with a happy ending. After originally declining to sell to developers gobbling up nearby land, a swap has been worked out to allow the dive bar to move across the street into new digs. Time will tell if the charm travels with it.
Of course the options extend from there, each dive bar reflecting a bit of the neighborhood that surrounds it. But for a city so built on mass entertainment and heavily-marketed attractions, dive bars provide a valuable city reset button, allowing for visitors and regulars to experience bit of actual Orlando rather than some of its intentionally-crafted pieces.