In the blink of an eye, local favorite eatery Oblivion Taproom closed its doors in late January only to reopen less than a month later under new management.
On Jan. 23, Oblivion Taproom posted a message to Facebook proclaiming that they would be permanently closing their doors Jan. 30. Owners Pete Wesenberg and Missy Jahn stepped down for unspecified reasons and said they didn’t plan on reopening again there or at any other locations.
The saving grace for Oblivion was longtime patron and Full Sail University teacher Shawn Paris and his father Wyatt, who also own a video game studio in the area. Shawn didn’t want his favorite hangout – replete with skeletons in sombreros painted on the wall, a free pool table and a gala of exotic beer selections – to go to waste. He said he saw potential in trying to buy the business himself.
“It just so happened that my business partner, my dad, was down in town that week that they closed,” Shawn said. “I brought him here a couple times when he was in town. It’s my favorite place in Orlando. Everybody was just so sad and morose that the place was closing, so we were discussing it from a business standpoint.”
Shawn, who described the news as “heartbreaking,” said the following week was a race against time to try and contact the old owners of the business and put in a bid to buy Oblivion Taproom.
Head chef Anderson Larkin, a holdover from the old management, described the scene one of the final days of Oblivion’s old ownership:
“I was sitting with the old owners,” he said. “When they came up and were just looking through the window. They said ‘we just bought the place.’ It was the most last-minute thing I’ve ever seen.”
Larkin said the Parises were “doing everything the right way” so far.
Shawn has kept most everything the same from the restaurant’s previous incarnation, only changing the menu slightly and upgrading the inside of the restaurant where it needed fixing. In addition, he saved the jobs of many employees who would have been cast adrift had the restaurant closed as planned, Larkin said.
Shawn said he retained five people from the front of the restaurant as well as the entire kitchen staff. He also added there are three more previous employees coming back to work there soon.
He said he thought Oblivion’s appeal among the sect of Orlandoans who frequent it came not just from the food and drinks, but from the unique vibe and feel of the restaurant.
“Missy and Pete used to call it the weirdest bar in Orlando,” he said. “It wasn’t quite the weirdest, but it was the home of so many people that didn’t really fit in anywhere else. Or they fit in here better than anywhere else.”
Oblivion Taproom is open Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. It is closed Monday. The address is 5101 E. Colonial Drive.