But the Night Is Still Young!
You won’t be alone if you leave Hannibal’s wishing it could stay open later.
Bartender Will Whitely serves David and Lindsay Brim as the 11 o’clock closing hour nears on a Wednesday night at Hannibal’s.
Photo By Norma Lopez Molina
It’s 10:30 on a Wednesday night and Hannibal’s on the Square is buzzing with conversation while a guitar duo sings in the background. The clientele is young, old and in between, a mix of diners and the cocktail crowd, with only a few feet of open space separating them. It’s a classy group in one of the classiest nightclubs in Winter Park—and in Orlando, for that matter—enjoying hump day with friends, spouses and business associates. And in a half-hour their fun must end.
Crossing the street to Dexter’s Restaurant isn’t a late-night option because the Hannibal Square neighbor also closes at 11 on weekdays. On Friday and Saturday, the two merchants can stay open an hour later. Meanwhile, the rest of the nightclub world in the area operates until the standard 2 a.m. closing time, and with Park Avenue only a few blocks east on the brick-paved New England Avenue just outside of Hannibal’s door, the night can continue elsewhere.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the upscale mixed-use, urban development that sits there today, but not too long ago Hannibal Square’s business district was a run-down, crime-ridden section of Winter Park. The city bought some of the bars in the historic African-American neighborhood and closed them, and in the mid-1990s a gentrified Hannibal Square began to take shape with the unique closing times in place. The curtailed bar hours were meant to assure residents—some living within 200 feet of Dexter’s—of late-night quiet. The owners of Hannibal’s and Dexter’s, however, see the ordinance as unfair and have tried in vain to have it rescinded.
If Hannibal’s were located on Park Avenue, it would compete for the pretentious crowds found at such chic hangouts as Luma on Park. But in Hannibal Square it is without peer as the place to be seen. It’s an intimate space, with accent lighting encased in the unique white onyx bar as well as behind the tiers of liquor bottles that back up to a white stone wall. Taking in the attractive setting, it’s hard to imagine Hannibal’s customers spilling out into the neighborhood and making a nuisance of themselves, squealing the tires on their Audis as they drive off. Dexter’s draws a tame crowd, too, though you might not know that by watching the bad dancing that goes on there. Still, some residents have defeated attempts by restaurant owners to operate as late as their competitors on Park Avenue. So this chic row of businesses remains an anachronism.
You won’t think about that back story when you’re at Hannibal’s. If it’s a weekend night, Michael Lamy is at the baby grand, crooning classics by Sinatra and Bennett. You can dance to him, slowly, while the dinner crowd savors French cuisine from the next-door kitchen of sister restaurant Chez Vincent; both establishments are owned by chef Vincent Gagliano.
But when the evening comes to an end all too soon, you will look at your watch and realize there’s still time for fun or romance—just not here.
Enlightened Grain Spirits is a line
of organic vodkas founded by a former Hannibal’s bartender, Matt Anderson. Here is one of the bar’s signature drinks, made with EG Inspiration, a rosemary and
A Passing Thought
2 oz. Inspiration
Shaker of ice
3 slices of Fuji apple
.5 oz. fresh honeycomb
½ tsp granulated brown sugar
2 mint leaves
Pinch of cinnamon
Directions: To a tin cocktail shaker, add Inspiration, ice, apple, honeycomb, cinnamon, brown sugar, one mint leaf. Shake vigorously until icy. Strain contents into a champagne flute and top with club soda. Garnish with a slice of apple and mint leaf.