A Different Sunday: Downtown Restaurants Affected by Day’s Events

Written By Scott Joseph On June 13, 2016

NQT brunch exterior

In photo, North Quarter Tavern in August on a more typical brunch Sunday.

On most Sundays, area restaurants, especially those in downtown, are filled with brunchers, many of them bleary eyed from a Saturday of nightclubbing.

Sunday, June 12, was different.

“It was very somber,” said Wendy Willis, kitchen manager at Hamburger Mary’s on Church Street. The restaurant, which has a bit of a gay vibe but, according to Willis, a very large straight clientele, features a Broadway Brunch on Sundays hosted by drag queens. “It’s usually a fun, joyous time,” said Willis. In true Broadway tradition, the show did go on, though the restaurant had several cancellations. There was still a good crowd for the show, she said, “But you could tell everybody was different. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Steve Gunter, owner of the Tap Room at Dubsdread, said that the mood there for Sunday brunch was also somber. It was a reflective mood,” he said. “Not sad,” he said, “but it wasn’t jovial.” He said the tvs in the restaurant were kept tuned to the news channels for updates.

A spokeswoman for North Quarter Tavern said some of the popular restaurant’s regulars started showing up later in the day just to escape the televisions and constant replays of the horror.

Greg Richie said that he heard about the attack while driving into work at his Soco restaurant in Thornton Park. He was expecting the day to be much slower than it turned out, but still said sales were down 30 to 40 percent over an average Sunday. The same was true at nearby Baoery, which he also oversees.

William Blake of the Rusty Spoon said he decided to open the restaurant up as usual Sunday evening because he didn’t want to disappoint the people who had reservations. But, he said, “It was the slowest night we’ve ever had,” and he closed the restaurant early after the last party with a reservation had finished.

Ono Nightclub in downtown Orlando decided not to open, said Joseph Wood, general manager of Red Mug Diner, which has the same ownership as the nightclub. The diner was open all day, he said, but sales were lower than a typical Sunday. Speaking by phone from the diner Monday morning, Wood said that usually Monday is his day off, but he had to come in because some of his staff called to say they were too scared to come in to work. None of the other restaurateurs reached for this story said that staff were not coming in.

Both Wood and Blake described downtown Orlando after dark using the same words: It looked like a ghost town.

Richie said that he thinks the people who came in to the popular Sunday brunch at Soco as usual were looking for some normalcy. “Some folks just wanted to get out, go about their day and live their lives,” he said.

What about you? Did you keep any reservations you had to dine on Sunday, or did you cancel out of concern for your safety? If you did go out, did you find it comforting to be among others? Please leave a comment below.

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