Raising the Bar
Vinyl Arts Bar blends nightlife and the arts scene in downtown Orlando’s burgeoning North Quarter district.
The North Quarter area of downtown Orlando used to be a means to an end. What was once an unremarkable stretch of Orange Avenue between Lake Ivanhoe and Colonial Drive is now a budding uptown business district and neighborhood of freshly minted luxury apartments flush with young professionals willing to pay a premium for close proximity to downtown.
The district’s newfound identity as a destination is a boon for upscale eateries like Citrus and North Quarter Tavern and hipster haunts like record store Uncle Tony’s Donut Shoppe, which sports a vibrant, larger-than-life mural of an old-fashioned Orlando postcard on its outer wall. But nothing captures the character and rebirth of the North Quarter more than Vinyl Arts Bar.
Patrons enjoy quiet conversation (Roberto Gonzalez).
The firehouse red facade of the bungalow-style storefront that Vinyl Arts Bar shares with Ink Spot Tattoo studio is the only remnant of the infamous massage parlor that once sat here. Since gutted and refurbished into a retro-chic nightspot and hookah lounge, this concept bar by Wilson and William Santos is one of the newest additions to the area’s sparse nightlife scene.
Designed as a showcase for art where patrons can gather, Vinyl Arts Bar is almost more of a gallery than a bar. Frequent exhibitions of large-scale works by local artists adorn the walls of four distinct rooms, each with its own vibe. A cozy dance floor dominates the main room where guest DJs spin tunes that set the tone for the night’s music theme, which can range from hip hop to salsa. The side and back rooms feature plush seating, perfect for relaxing and mingling.
Vinyl arts bar
Wilson Santos, a filmmaker, poet, DJ, and instructor at Full Sail University, doesn’t put any limits on the artwork displayed, and spotting an artist painting in a corner of the room is not out of the ordinary. Open mic nights can feature poetry, spoken word and freestyle rap. Screenings by local and visiting filmmakers are frequent. And the first Friday of each month features a photo shoot night when photographers, models, makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists and fashion designers come together for an evening of collaboration and networking.
The bar is wine and beer only, serving a selection of local craft, domestic and imported brands. And Vinyl is one of the few bars in town to serve a variety of low-alcohol cocktails using fermented wine rather than distilled spirits. The drinks are just as satisfying as the real deal. When taken as a shot, the fermented wine tastes similar to sake. Hookahs also are available for a $25 fee, but nightly specials can knock as much as five dollars off your hookah bill.
Vinyl Arts Bar is a welcome addition to downtown Orlando’s nightlife scene with a refreshing and creative combination of libations, culture and community.
PARK THE CAR For those who live beyond walking distance of the North Quarter, Vinyl’s parking can be a challenge. Free parking is available and accessed through a tight, blind driveway off Colonial Drive, with only a limited number of spaces available. Parking street-side along Orange or Magnolia avenues is likely the best bet on weekends, when the bar can fill up quickly.