Opened in 1954 by Roy Updike, Wally’s Bar & Liquors gets its name from Roy’s son, Walter, who took over sometime during the 1960s and operated the Orlando dive bar until his death in 2008. As just one example of the dive bar flair to be found within Wally’s, Walter’s ashes came to rest in an urn within the space. After 64 years of family ownership, Wally’s Bar & Liquors closed in 2018 before being purchased by Minesh Patel, lightly renovated and reopened in 2019. A further sale in 2022 solidified ownership of the building and the operation of the bar under one management group, hopefully ensuring the long-term viability of the self-proclaimed oldest bar in Orlando.
There are two signature features here, the first one seen from the road in the form of the iconic sign that sits along Mills Avenue in the Mills 50 District of Orlando. Though the exterior used to be covered in tile and has since been remodeled, the sign has thankfully remained intact. Inside is where a second and more interesting signature feature can be found in the form of wallpaper added in 1961 that depicts women in various states of complete undress. While regulars worried that renovations might endanger the noteworthy wallpaper within Wally’s, the 2019 reopening featured not only preserved but enhanced wallpaper, restorations made by patching holes with excess pieces from other areas of the bar.
In true Florida dive bar fashion, Wally’s Bar & Liquors lives up to its name by operating a package liquor store within the same space. But there are scant hours when a drink can’t be purchased at the U-shaped bar inside with opening hours that run 7 AM most days (9 AM on Sundays). Other improvements have been made over the years like renovated outdoor seating and renewed ownership likely means other adjustments are yet to come but each move has been made with an eye on preserving the vintage elements that have spurred Wally’s success.