On your mark: Ace Cafe to open first U.S. location in Orlando

The first U.S. outpost of an iconic London mega-brand will open its doors this spring in downtown Orlando. The entertainment, shopping and dining venue on a three-acre parcel at the corner of Livingston Street and Garland Avenue brings Ace Cafe’s intercontinental appeal as well as its built-in fan base to Central Florida.

“We’re very excited by Ace coming and making us their North American headquarters,” said Thomas Chatmon, executive director of Orlando’s Downtown Development Board and Community Redevelopment Agency. “It’s very unique to downtown – not just retail, not just restaurant, not just events, but all those things combined.” Even better, he expects Ace to bring a demographic to downtown that’s not already present on any given evening. “We’re excited because it really becomes another downtown destination.”

Since 1938, Ace Cafe London has been a gathering place for people interested in all types of engines, no matter their background. It’s a mecca for those passionate about rock 'n' roll, motorcycle and automobile culture. The original location on London’s North Circular Road began as a simple roadside cafe for truckers, then travelers and bikers, and then became infamous for attracting rowdy biker types during the '50s and '60s. These days, everyone from celebrities and champion drivers to car and motorcycle fans of all genres gets together at the Ace.

“There are fathers and sons who still go together,” said Steve Glum, chief marketing officer for Ace Cafe North America. “They ride in on motorcycles and when you talk to them, they’ll say, ‘This is my son.’ It’s a generational thing.” The same level of devotion has already taken hold in Central Florida, as car and motorcycle clubs schedule their regular meetings and special events. “I’ve got a 12-month magnet board and there’s something almost every day starting in spring,” said Glum, who expects to host approximately 200 events annually.

The Ace Cafe Orlando complex includes 14,000 square feet of restaurant, bar, cafe and live music space on two floors, including two kitchens, three bars, a coffee bar, private and semi-private group spaces, and an outdoor patio. The Backyard Beer Garden features a stage and space for 1,200 people. An additional 18,000 square feet of retail and tenant space houses a Dainese, BMW/Ducati/Norton motorcycle dealer/showroom, and the Rockers Speed Shop – Ace Cafe’s retail outlet for branded gear, leather jackets, shirts, headwear and accessories. Giant garage doors open wide to the car park outside, perfect for a place that “celebrates the connection between man and machine,” Glum noted.

In development since its April 2015 groundbreaking, the Orlando venue has been in the works even longer.

"We looked in cities all over the USA, and nothing really popped until we got to Orlando,” Glum explained. “We saw all of the available locations here in town, and thought we’d struck out again to find a location that fit the essence of the original Ace in London – until by chance we rolled upon 100 W. Livingston St.”

Even though the property wasn’t listed at the time, it reminded him of the original. “We could visualize it. The historic buildings, adjacency to I-4, and downtown location were the ideal match for our brand.” Central Florida’s exploding growth and strong tourism economy added to that appeal. “So we inquired about the space, did the deal and here we are.”

Glum credits Mayor Buddy Dyer, Chatmon and the Downtown Development Board for smoothing the way during the longer-than-expected renovation process.

With so many auto and bike-related events in the works, Ace benefits from proximity to both the Bank of America parking facility and Lynx Central Station, an intermodal transit center serving the Lynx bus system and SunRail commuter rail. “From a transportation standpoint, they’re in an oasis,” said Orlando’s Chatmon.

Glum expects to announce grand opening details within the next month. In the meantime, Ace Cafe has introduced six new leather jacket styles to celebrate the Orlando opening. In addition to the original London venue, Ace Cafe also has locations in Finland, Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland, and Beijing, with a Barcelona location also under construction.

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