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Hamburger Mary’s leaving Church Street and Downtown Orlando

Written By Scott Joseph On May 24, 2024

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John Paonessa and Mike Rogier, owners of the Orlando Hamburger Mary’s franchise, announced this week that they close the restaurant in the historic Church Street Station on June 2. So that’s kind of a drag, but take heart – the duo pledge to reopen in another location as yet to be decided.

In a post on HM’s Facebook page, Paonessa wrote: “Downtown Orlando has been great to us. However, times have changed. The hustle and bustle of Downtown Orlando has given way to a sleepy city with few people working downtown and opting for remote, and less traffic in the evenings.”

The restaurant opened in 2008 in the space that had been Buffalo Trading Co. It was an instant hit and became known for its bingo nights and brunches hosted by local drag performers. In fact, last year, when Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that made it illegal for children to be present at a drag performance, Paonessa and Rogier sued the governor and the state, saying that the law violated their First Amendment rights. (Parents often brought their children to the shows, which were never prurient.) Last June, a federal judge ruled in the favor of Hamburger Mary’s and issued a temporary injunction.

In the Facebook post, Paonessa said that he and Rogier were in “negotiations/talks” over a couple of venues that might be suitable for a relocation of the restaurant but also welcomed readers to recommend “a space that you think looks like a good fit,” which would suggest a reopening won’t be coming soon.

Hamburger Mary’s originated in San Francisco in 1972 and became a worldwide franchise. When I visited Berlin in 2013, I was surprised to find a Hamburger Mary’s in the lobby of my hotel.

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