Morse Boulevard is home to a namesake nightspot that features high-end amenities, sophisticated décor, and some unique local connections.
Morse Code Lounge opened on Oct. 4 at 163 E. Morse Blvd. The elegant, artsy vibe and carefully curated wine list are the combined opus of management teammates Shannon Beaty and Ulrich Stanley Marine (aka U.S. Marine), whose partnership was the result of a serendipitous meeting.
“I’ve been in the car business for most of my career, but I’ve loved wine for about 20 years,” said Marine, who is president of Sutherlin Nissan of Orlando. Fond memories of a three-year stint as a bartender in Tampa, prior to entering his chosen field, inspired a notion to open a bar as a side project. “My three passions are wine, art and cigars – I wanted to bring all of that together in this concept.” The notion became a plan when a friendship was struck with Beaty.
“Back in 2015 I was bartending at Park Plaza Gardens,” said Beaty. “U.S. would come in with friends to enjoy a martini and I usually waited on him.” Meetings became regular and banter became frequent, and the plan was set in motion. “He said, ‘I’m gonna buy a bar and I’m gonna hire you to run it.’”
Beaty was raised in Winter Park and attended Brookshire Elementary School and Winter Park High School. She spent five years as a competitive surfer but grew up around the restaurant business thanks to her father, William, who owned two International House of Pancakes locations and a local watering hole. “I remember the bartenders had shirts that read, ‘The moose is loose at Park Ave. Pub’ because they served Moosehead beer,” she said.
Beaty’s hospitality background coupled with Marine’s business acumen formed the foundation for the business venture. After years of conceptualizing, searching for the right location, and waiting through a pandemic, the idea finally became reality when the Morse Boulevard property was secured through a mutual acquaintance in 2022. The address played a part in the naming, but the focus is personalized service.
“I would identify the style as more of a speakeasy,” Beaty said, adding that the name was partially inspired by the prohibition-era practice of using code words used to enter bars. Passwords and hidden doorways are replaced by membership levels that unlock benefits ranging from special events and discounts to concierge services.
While the entrance is easily accessible, it is tucked just far enough from Park Avenue to inspire an intimate vibe that carries into the venue. High-top tables are set by the window with elegant booths arranged beneath striking art pieces that are on display and for sale in partnership with a short-list of artists that include Roc Demarco and Jamali.
The interior incorporates two of Marine’s passions, but the third takes advantage of an outdoor space meant to provide another level of luxury. “We didn’t want to have cigars inside because not everyone likes them,” said Marine. “So, we went outside to create a full cigar lounge and we have a humidor inside with many cigar offerings.”
Social media posts and word of mouth have made for steady business during the first months, and special events ranging from product releases to live music nights have broadened the range of offerings. Plans are also in the works for a New Year’s Eve masquerade event. For now, Marine and Beaty are keeping the guest experience top of mind while enjoying the success they’ve finally unlocked.
“It all goes back to my love of wine and Shannon’s experience,” Marine said. “It seems like the demand was there and people are definitely excited about it. We’re really proud of what we’ve got here.”