Thomas C. Chatmon, Downtown Orlando advocate, dies at 68

Written By Scott Joseph On July 25, 2023

Thomas C. Chatmon

Thomas C. Chatmon, executive director of the Downtown Development Board for the City of Orlando, died Saturday after a yearslong battle with cancer. He was 68.

Chatmon was passionate about Downtown Orlando, dubbed DTO under his leadership, and was keen on flipping its landscape from one dominated by bars to one more welcoming to independent restaurants and chefs.

Southeast 9 23 Bosch

I worked with Chatmon on a task force that focused on making DTO more restaurant friendly. Out of that task force came the legislation exemption that lowered the requirements to obtain a liquor license for restaurants in a designated Downtown area. Restaurants with a full liquor license have an economic advantage over those that serve only beer and wine. (The exemption has since been expanded to the city’s Main Street districts.) 

During the process of obtaining the exemption, which had to be approved by Florida lawmakers, I became frustrated with the slow pace of the bureaucratic system. Whenever another few months would go by with no discernible progress, I would call Chatmon to ask why nothing was happening. He would reply calmly – he never spoke in any other way except calmly – that these things take time. I should have realized that a political science graduate of Morehouse College knew what he was doing.

Downtown’s character hasn’t changed yet, but I know that it will. These things just take time. When it does happen, when bars start getting replaced with creative chefs vying for the attention of Michelin Guide inspectors, when people start thinking of DTO as Dine Town Orlando, it will be because of the foundation laid by Thomas Chatmon.  

We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

Scott's Newsletter