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Pioneering Orlando dive bar closes after 64 years

August 25, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of Orlando’s most well-known dive bars, Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors, has shut down after more than six decades as a mainstay east of downtown Orlando.

The establishment posted a sign on its door on Tuesday telling customers about the closing.

“It is with great regret that we have decided to close our doors after 64 years in business & great memories,” said the sign, attributed to “The Wally’s Family.”

Wally’s was a part of Orlando nearly two decades before Disney World, it predated the arrival of Asian-Americans who defined the neighborhood and long before Mills 50 became a hip taco and entertainment district. It was known for its cheap, stiff drinks, rowdy crowds and prolonged hours, often closing long after it was required to at 2 a.m.

Calls and messages to Wally’s were not returned, and no reason was given as to why it closed.

Wally’s opened as Orange Liquor No. 2 in 1954 by Roy and Walter Updike, but Roy’s son, also Walter, renamed the place Wally’s.

Wally’s kept much of its quirky charm over the past 50 years. Its decor included wallpaper of women’s breasts dating from 1961 and an urn filled with Wally Updike’s ashes near the bar.

Orlando attorney John Morgan was a frequent customer and said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel that he would consider buying the business.

“Word has reached me that Wallys has shuttered,” Morgan wrote on his Facebook page. “I had my first drink there at age 16. When I come home for the summer I will look into buying it.”

Walter Pacheco of Orlando said he’s been visiting Wally’s Liquor since he moved to the area in 2001 and was always drawn by its “diverse crowds” and sarcastic bartenders.

“It really hasn’t changed in all those years,” said Pacheco, managing editor for Asbestos.com, a cancer awareness group. “It was a really attractive place to someone that likes the older side of Orlando.”

In the early afternoon, small groups of people gathered in front of the bar to drink and pay tribute to it.

Ralph Lagarreta liked to hang out at Wally’s whenever he was in Orlando for concerts or spending time at the YMCA.

“It was the kind of place where you can be having a drink with a homeless person, a politician, a doctor, a lawyer or construction workers,” said Lagarreta of Deltona. “It really was a place where everyone was welcome. I even met two women there that ended up in serious relationships over the years.”

The bar and property are now owned by Wally Updike’s widow Linda Updike and operated by Martin Snellgrove.

The 0.35-acre property where Wally’s is located has not publicly been listed for sale. The two properties, including a small parking area in the rear and a billboard, are valued at about $395,000 according to the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office.

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Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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