Legendary Barbarella nightclub has moved out of downtown Orlando. Here’s why it’s a big deal | Orlando Music News | Orlando

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Photo by Jim Leatherman

Barbarella downtown around early 2022

legendary nightclub Barbarelle officially left the building – its original town center – after nearly 35 years. In the history of the Orlando club, this is as important as it gets.

It’s brain-busting to imagine this cornerstone of nightlife outside the city center. No one has ever had to do this before. The very idea that such a sacred institution is no longer in the original and privileged location it deserved is inconceivable, even sacrilege. But it’s not just a changing of the times happening right now, it’s a changing of the guards. And downtown has definitely entered a post-cool era.

Back when Downtown was a total urban wasteland in terms of nightlife culture, Barbarella (in its original iteration as a Beach Club) was one of the first settlers of that frontier as an alternative music oasis. arrived in an arid urban landscape. It has become the oldest club in the Orange Avenue strip.

During that time, however, downtown Orlando has transformed from a gritty underground playground to a traditional nightlife mecca, with all the diminishing returns that gentrification entails. Now, as the exclamation mark on the succession of changes that have steadily drained downtown of much of its organic soul and substance, Barbarella joins the OG exodus.

Leaving a place with roots for generations will always be painful and heavy. But the context also plays on the decor. For a very long time I have been as much downtown as they come. A predominant fraction of that time involved, and often even revolved around, Barbarella. From the early days of alternative music, through the age of acid-jazz, through the years of indie-rock, Barbarella was the beacon and stronghold. The city center, however, is not the same.

Barbarella therefore took the bold decision to relocate – and an important part of the nightlife heritage with it – to an exurban fringe. Specifically, it is settling in an industrial park near the developing but not yet real packaging district. It’s a prospect that probably raises a lot of eyebrows and anxiety, but there’s precedent here.

Barbarella himself established a historically defining one in the 1980s when he made a bet on a then desolate downtown. So Barbarella breaking unsettled ground again is in many ways a throwback to the club’s original underground spirit.

Now it’s back to the edge of the stage. And strangely enough, it brings the full circle back to the old seminal nightclub warehouse and like-minded Face in attitude, setting and even location. (Visage was less than three miles from Barbarella’s new excavations.)

Still, the move is an extraordinary leap of faith. But so was the original Barbarella. Will the new catch the magic again? We’ll start seeing this weekend at the club’s grand unveiling on Saturday, April 16 at 4141 N. John Young Parkway. In my book, however, it’s Barbarella forever.

Jerry C. Greiner