Construction update: Ace Cafe Orlando builds toward springtime opening

An international brand is restoring local history as Ace Cafe Orlando — a motorcycle- and muscle-car themed diner-style eatery — prepares to open its first North American venue inside downtown Orlando's Harry P. Leu site.

The project, which has been in construction mode since early 2015, has faced its share of delays due to the age and condition of its 91-year-old host. Ace Cafe Orlando, owned by London-based Ace Cafe, is a full-service restaurant and bar, a cafe, a live music and special event venue, a motor-inspired art gallery and retail shops.

"We chose the location for its history and personality, but there was a lot to restore," Ace Cafe Chief Operating Officer Eric Forward told Orlando Business Journal during a March 28 media tour. "We found about five different ceilings layered one on top of the another on the main building, all of which needed to be pulled off piece by piece."

Dubbed "Ace Corner," the 3-acre parcel at 100 W. Livingston St. will open in two phases. Phase one, slated to open in late April, includes a 14,000-square-foot restaurant complete with bars and a stage that dates back to the former Edge concert venue that occupied the site in the early 1990s.

Phase one also includes 18,000 square feet of retail space inside the brick building facing Livingston Street. High-profile tenants will include a BMW motorcycle dealer, motorcycle gear manufacturer Dainese and EagleRider motorcycle rental company. Stonebridge Motorgallery will exhibit and sell works by internationally famous artists on the second level of the retail building. And the expansive parking lot is a venue all its own where car and bike shows can be staged and where custom rides can be shown off on any given night.

Phase two, slated for a summer opening, includes the expansive Backyard outdoor venue where The Barn concert/special event space will be located along with Oklahoma Joe's BBQ. Ace Cafe Orlando already has added 175 jobs to the local economy and, according to Thomas Chatmon Jr., executive director of the Downtown Development Board, the economic benefits don't end there.