Putting out The Club's fire

On official documents, it's always been just "The Club." But in fliers and in the minds of party people from London to Tokyo, the club at 578 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando has long been known as The Club at Firestone or, more often, just "Firestone."

Now it appears the neon-orange "Firestone" sign that came with the 70-year-old building when the nightclub opened its doors in 1993 is coming down. The owners of the property, Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., recently sought and received permission from the city's historic preservation board to remove the sign, which is somewhat newer than the historic building itself. The board's OK goes on Aug. 23 to the Orlando City Council, which is certain to grant the property owner's request.

Blame the city's campaign to brand the venue as a drug haven for the conglomerate's skittishness. Just as The Club was winning international media attention as the hotbed of Orlando's then-thriving electronica scene, the city in 1997 made it the focus of a crackdown on late-night raves that led to restricted hours for all downtown clubs. And the city has continued to scrutinize The Club, giving the owners reason to want to distance themselves from what they are told goes on there. "We would prefer that people not refer to it as The Club at Firestone," Matthew Brenner, Firestone's lawyer in the matter, told the Sentinel.

Old habits die hard, though. A worker at The Club said management had heard no requests as of last week to stop using the name in advertisements, and that until then they had no plans to do so.

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