When the city and state cracked down on late-night dancing just before the turn of the millennium, things looked bleak for the thousands of after-hour revelers who party in the beat of the night. It was "Footloose" all over again.
Back before the bloody Club Wars, regular-hour venues simply stayed open after the 2 a.m. alcohol cut-off, locked up the booze and pushed their closing times to sun-up. But the new ordinances didn't apply to facilities that were alcohol-free, leaving a mammoth, glowstick-lit loophole for ravers to jump through. Slowly but surely, new venues have emerged, giving late-night fun a second lease on life. Thanks to a handful of new and rejuvenated haunts -- Mimosa Late-Night, Fluid, Area 51, Club H2O2, Heroes and Cyberzone -- 2000 bore a late-night revival, much to the chagrin of the blue-haired government. Break out the party hats.
Downtown Orlando's only permanent installation is Club H202 (changed from Club H2O), at 39 West Pine St. The discotheque, open till 7 a.m. Thursday-Saturday nights, splashed onto the scene with an aggressive flier campaign and name headliners like DJ Sandy. The owners recently added a breath of fresh air -- literally -- laying claim to the title "Orlando's first oxygen bar."
Fluid, the much-maligned step-brother of The Club at Firestone located on Mills Avenue, has picked up steam on Saturdays (actually on early Sundays -- the place opens at 1:30 a.m.). Newcomer Area 51, at 600 Maguire Boulevard near Colonial Drive, services an all-ages crowd until midnight on Saturdays before turning the reins over to the 21-and-up crowd till 6 a.m. (Be forewarned: Area 51's constantly changing schedule is a roller coaster.) There's also Mimosa Late-Night, 1013 E. Colonial Drive, which transforms a pool-hall-by-day into a fully functional dance club open till 6 a.m., as well as Heroes Nightclub, open in Eatonville until 5 a.m.
The owners of embattled bottle-club Cyberzone have been carrying the torch the longest, boasting a full schedule of top-shelf DJ delights from their Lee Road outpost in spite of high-profile drug arrests and mounting police pressure.
But the trend isn't just in the clubs. The night-owl experience is spreading into the dining realm as well. Thanks to 24-hour eatery The Globe on Wall Street Plaza, downtowners have a round-the-clock excuse to indulge. The restaurant even hosted a pair of Globefest after-hour dance events earlier this year -- further proof that the laws passed to keep nocturnal admissions from happening haven't kept the all-hours fun at bay.