A visit to St. Matthew's Tavern

When we blogged recently about the newly opened St. Matthew's Tavern on Mills Avenue, people were confused: Is it a bar that hosts church services, or a church that has a bar in it? On Sunday morning, Billy Manes and I set out early to find out.

At 11 a.m. every Sunday morning, St. Dorothy's Catholic community is now holding mass inside the space, which used to be called Orlando Nights. Before that, it was known as Paradise. The community, an independent Catholic community that had been forced to move out of its old space in the Winter Park Wedding Chapel after that building was picked up and moved to a new location, voted to temporarily hold services in the bar after the space was offered by Matthew Fassl, who has been working on opening a bar and beer garden here. In fact, the business' website is actually Orlandobeergarden.com.

When we walked in the door, mass was in full swing. The front room of the bar has been designed to mimic a church, with pews and small tables, which were already full when we arrived. During the mass, red curtains were drawn over the windows and doorways that led to the bar, obscuring it from view. A priest in purple robes gave a traditional Catholic service, offered communion, then made the announcements before his final blessing and dismissal. Among the things he told the congregation: The church community has adopted two families for the Christmas holiday ("We don't just sit on our keisters here at St. Dorothy's," he said), and that the bar will close early on Christmas Eve so the community can hold a traditional midnight mass.

After the service was complete, members of the community helped break down the church and removed the red curtains, revealing the bar, which opens for drinking at 1 p.m. on Sundays.

We will follow up in January with a more complete story about St. Dorothy's Catholic Community and this unique church in January; in the meantime, though, I thought I'd share this image of Billy in church:



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