Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando’s SoDo District will reopen for service on Friday, August 14, after receiving a permanent food license from the state of Florida.

Like all Florida bars, coronavirus restrictions have prevented Swirlery from serving drinks for almost five months, with the exception of a brief reopening in early June. The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation reinstated the alcohol service ban after just two weeks, when Florida saw huge spikes in new COVID-19 cases, with many outbreaks tied to bars that failed to follow social distancing rules.

Swirlery has relied on retail wine sales to stay afloat so far, but co-owner Melissa McAvoy says that was never a long term solution, since about 80% of her business comes from onsite consumption.

“I just don’t know how long we’re gonna go on this rollercoaster of ‘let’s open and close bars,’” she told the UnWineding podcast in mid-July. “This is like survival now.”

Restaurants vs Bars

Florida’s restaurants were allowed to reopen in early May with no restrictions on alcohol service. State officials started meeting with bar owners this month to try to reach agreement on how they too might be able to reopen safely, but McAvoy is not optimistic.

“I just don’t feel like anything’s gonna happen, ” she said. “I don’t think that they’re going to just open bars back up.”

Melissa and Damian
Swirlery Wine Bar co-owners Melissa McAvoy and Damian Roman

She decided the only way she could start serving again was to invest in remodeling Swirlery’s small kitchen and applying for a permanent food service license. Many other Central Florida bars are reportedly considering similar action.

Swirlery’s application was approved on Wednesday, according to an announcement today on its Instagram feed.

The bar-turned-restaurant will open for service tomorrow at 3pm for drinks and a limited food menu of cheese plates and crudites. Reservations are strongly recommended for limited indoor seating; outdoor seating is also available.

The reopening also happens to coincide with the replacement of Swirlery’s marquee, which was destroyed by an EF-1 tornado on June 6.

As the Instagram post proclaims, “It must be a sign.”

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