Ceviche, the tapas bar and restaurant, has closed its downtown Orlando location. The company made the announcement on its Facebook page Tuesday, blaming the closure to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ceviche will immediately cease operations permanently in Orlando. The closure is very disappointing for all involved. From the bottom of our heart, thank you for the memories, loyalty and support over the past ten years. We are incredibly grateful to all of our guests and team members– thank you.”
Although the statement makes reference to the past 10 years, Ceviche has occupied its place at Church Street Station for more than 12. I first reviewed it for the Orlando Sentinel in January of 2008.
The first Ceviche opened in Tampa in 1997 and others followed in St. Petersburg and Sarasota. Only the St. Petersburg location remains.
The Orlando restaurant occupied the large space that for many years had been Lili Marlene’s, part of the sprawling and popular Church Street Station entertainment complex. Church Street saw its heyday end when Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando opened their own nighttime entertainment venues. Prior to Ceviche moving in, the Marlene’s space was occupied, briefly, by Pearl Steakhouse, a project of the Lou Pearlman, the disgraced boy-band manager.
Ceviche was well received when it opened. My review mentioned the authentic atmosphere reminiscent of a tapas bar in Madrid and the enthusiasm of the staff. “Of course, it's easy to be enthusiastic about the food when it's this good,” I wrote.
I also noted that that part of downtown was in transition. The 55 West apartment building was still under construction. The current arena had not been built, panhandling was out of control and downtown was overrun by a grungy element. And parking was restricted because a new interchange for I-4 and the East-West Expressway was happening (five years before the start of the Ultimate I-4 project!).
But I said that those issues should not deter people from patronizing the new tapas bar.
“And if Ceviche is the kind of restaurant we want to see more of in downtown Orlando -- and I think it is -- we should do everything we can to encourage its survival.”
You did the best you could. So did Ceviche, which also offered some of the best flamenco entertainment around. But none of us could have foreseen the current pandemic.