The Imperial Winter Park to Reopen at Former Home of The Parkview

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The Imperial Winter Park is taking a big step toward a grand reopening with the official announcement of its new Park Avenue location. Owner John Washburn told the32789 that the popular venue will be setting up at 136 S. Park Ave.: former home of The Parkview.

“The buildout starts July 1st,” Washburn said. “We are hoping to open in October, before the Autumn Art Festival, but acknowledge that might be ambitious.”

Drew Weisner and John Washburn

Washburn and executive chef Drew Weisner have been ready for the move since losing the lease at their last location, which was razed to make way for a new building by incoming tenant, Storyville Coffee. They see the new address as a natural fit and a long time coming. “We both grew up in Winter Park,” Washburn said. “Operating a location on Park Avenue is something we’ve always wanted to do even as kids.”

The Imperial Winter Park opened at 170 E. Morse Blvd. in 2018 as a sister location to Washburn’s original antique shop/wine bar, The Imperial at Washburn Imports, at 1800 N. Orange Ave. The Morse Boulevard venue earned a loyal following early in its five-year run thanks to a laid-back atmosphere, live music schedule, and the addition of an eclectic menu of sandwiches, salads, and small plates. The closing was announced in October, but an agreement with the new landlord kept the Park Avenue address confidential until now. The Parkview announced its closing in a June 18 social media post and is looking for a new location.

The Parkview took over its Park Avenue address after Eola Wine Company closed in 2014. The space has room for a small stage and the same number of indoor seats as The Imperial’s last location, along with outdoor seating.

Washburn and Weisner feel their new venue has everything they need to build on the success of the previous location. The floor plan will accommodate approximately the same number of indoor seats with a larger bar and room for a stage. It also accommodates outdoor seating, and Washburn says a courtyard-style space at the back of the property could possibly host small parties. According to Weisner, only one major renovation is necessary: “We need to work on the kitchen, there’s no hood system or gas appliances.”

The kitchen revamp will accommodate a new menu of fresh seafood specials and grilled items for daily lunch service, dinner, and a weekend brunch. Plans are to quadruple the kitchen staff of the Morse Boulevard location and to add more bartenders and servers.

The partners take several cues from the now defunct Dexter’s restaurants, of which both are proud alums – Weisner served as executive chef for Dexter’s Thornton Park and Washburn was part of the beverage team at the Winter Park location. The brand was known for its food, service, and welcoming atmosphere that was a model for The Imperial. “I think we had all of that before and will improve it with these new food concepts and more music,” Weisner said. “We want to bring some fun to Park Avenue.”

But the desire to offer a cool neighborhood hangout doesn’t mean they don’t plan on being good neighbors.

“Park Avenue shuts down early and we’re going to follow that tradition,” said Washburn. “We’re not going to have a massive stage like we’re a concert hall, but we’ll have a good mix of music; a little bit of everything.”

Washburn plans to post regular social media updates on the renovations and hiring will begin as the buildout progresses.

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