Downtown Revisited

Filed under: Hidden Orlando,Leisure,Vacation Tips |

ORLANDO, Fla. — Church Street Station’s glory days are a thing of the past, but 17 years later the man known as the father of downtown Orlando is back to try and help with a rebirth. Later this month, Bob Snow will reopen the Cheyenne Saloon at Church Street Station. In its heyday, the saloon was the centerpiece of the third most popular tourist spot in Orlando, behind Disney and SeaWorld. But when it sold, a number of developers failed to keep the momentum and it closed. The most recent owner, Lou Pearlman, is in jail, charged with being a con-man. Bob Snow’s scrapbook is filled with pictures of the glory days. He hopes history will repeat itself. “We’re back in the saddle again,” Snow told Eyewitness News, laughing. The last several years have not been easy on the man who once had a street downtown named after him. Bob Snow sold out and had to sit back and watch as his labor of love was torn apart. “It was breaking my heart what was happening to Church Street Station,” he said. The original antiques were ripped from the walls and sold at auction. So Snow, who signed a lease-option, went shopping and replaced most of what was taken down. Also, every piece of wood was redone in what’s called a restoration, not remodel. “It’s been a challenge doing it without destroying what was here,” said contractor Bill Lowery. While significant water damage and decay has been fixed, there are infrastructure additions, including a sound system for what they hope are more big country acts. “The sound in here is incredible. It sounds like Carnegie Hall,” Lowery said. It’s been 25 years since the Cheyenne Saloon opened and 17 years since Snow operated it. When he reflects on its success, he realizes that recreating that magic could be even more difficult. Twenty years ago there was a weekly cable TV broadcast and 1.5 million tourists coming to downtown. Snow realizes now, though, the tourist market has all but dried up downtown, meaning it’s for the locals. Right now, Snow says he’s waiting on some paperwork to make its way through the liquor licensing process in Tallahassee. If that happens in the next week or two, he said the Cheyenne Saloon will open the last weekend of January.

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