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Wed-Jan-2021 Long-awaited Taco Bell Cantina soft-opens in downtown Orlando

The dream is still alive after all this time — has it really been two years? — and the Taco Bell Cantina in downtown Orlando is reportedly in a soft-opening mode starting Wednesday.

As reported by Bungalower, the doors to the long-awaited Taco Bell Cantina will swing open to a hungry and thirsty public at some point on Wednesday afternoon.…

Wed-Jan-2021 Orlando Burger Week winner is the Mamba Tribute Burger from Alex's Fresh Kitchen in Casselberry

Orlando Burger Week, 15 epic days (you can't fit all those burgers into a mere week!) devoted to the art of the hamburger in the City Beautiful, went down in November.…

Wed-Jan-2021 Publix won't stop selling coconut milk from company that uses monkey slave labor, says PETA

After activists with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) dumped coconuts at the Lakeland headquarters of Publix last December, the group now says the grocery giant is still refusing to stop selling coconut milk derived from monkey slaves in Thailand.

Last year, PETA Asia went undercover at eight farms in Thailand, some of which supply coconuts to Chaokoh, a leading producer of coconut milk sold at Publix. The group's findings allege that the monkeys are forced to pick coconuts while being chained to old tires, and live in small enclosures.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Lake Ivanhoe among Orlando lakes closed due to toxic algae blooms and E. coli

Lake Ivanhoe is one of 10 lakes in the Orlando area that is under a "lake alert" for algae toxins, according to the City of Orlando. Lakes Ivanhoe, Copeland, and Sue were all placed under alert in the last few days because of algae bloom toxins found in the water; several others were closed back in December and early January for the same reason.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Orlando-based Darden Restaurants will give employees paid time off if they receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Darden Restaurants — Orlando-based owners of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yardhouse and Bahama Breeze — announced on Tuesday that the company's 175,000 team members across the U.S. would be given paid time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine. …

Tue-Jan-2021 Walt Disney World moves to update the Jungle Cruise's racist portrayal of indigenous people

The Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland and Orlando's Walt Disney World will undergo major changes in order to update racist portrayals of African people.

Since opening in 1955 (Disneyland) and 1971 (Walt Disney World), the innocuously titled Jungle Cruise ride included problematic descriptions of indigenous Africans as spear-shaking "savages" — or in Disney-speak "negative depictions of native people" — hidden among the corny skipper jokes, animatronic elephants and tropical greenery.

Finally, Disney is moving to update both rides, most likely this year, according to a post on the company's official Disney Parks Blog

The move to revamp the ride follows Disney's decision to update older, also controversial attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain

Disney fans on Twitter were, naturally, not holding anything back in their initial responses to these changes..
Twitter outrage or not, these changes to Jungle Cruise are as good as happening.

Carmen Smith, executive of creative development and inclusion strategies at Walt Disney Imagineering, spoke of the importance of updating the ride.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Blue Man Group may leave Orlando for good — has Universal outgrown them?

The pandemic has caused a lot of people to move out of the Orlando area, but three very recognizable men may now be joining that list. After a 13-year run in the City Beautiful, the Blue Man Group is rumored to be moving on.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Free COVID-19 testing at Barnett Park to continue through February

The free COVID-19 testing site at Barnett Park for Orange County residents will extend operations through February.

The Barnett Park drive-through facility will continue to operate daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, through Feb. 28.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Judge rules that Florida man who planned to 'violently confront protesters' in Tallahassee will remain in jail

A federal magistrate judge on Monday ordered a Tallahassee man accused of plotting to “violently confront” potential protesters at the Florida Capitol this month to be kept in jail until his trial.

In a written ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael J. Frank also found probable cause for Daniel Baker’s Jan. 15 arrest, which came amid preparations for the possibility of protests by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The case against Baker hinges largely on a Facebook event Baker created issuing a “call to arms” asking other like-minded people to “encircle and trap” pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 20, the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Investigators say Baker also printed and intended to distribute flyers with the information, accompanied by an image of an AK-47 rifle.

A federal public defender appointed to represent Baker tried during a pretrial hearing last week to convince the judge that Baker’s threats were “hyperbole.” But in Frank’s ruling, he pointed to specificity in Baker’s threats, writing that although there were “political overtones to defendant’s messages, he explicitly included true threats within his diatribe.”

As a result, the judge determined Baker’s speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

In requiring Baker to remain in jail, Frank cited Baker’s access to firearms, his lack of “substantial ties to Tallahassee” and “participation in violent acts in the Middle East.”

Baker, who was given an “other-than-honorable” discharge from the military in 2007, traveled to Iraq and Syria in 2017 to join a militant group called the People’s Protection Units.

Baker owns a pistol and a shotgun, which an FBI agent testified Baker had in his apartment at the time of his arrest, and had recently purchased but not yet retrieved a rifle from a pawn shop.

Baker is charged with transmission, in interstate commerce, of a communication containing a threat to kidnap or to injure.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Publix supermarkets will reopen online COVID-19 vaccination portal in Florida this week

Lakeland-based grocery giant Publix announced that the website where seniors can sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at one of its many locations around Florida will reopen at 6 a.m on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and again at 6 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. …

Tue-Jan-2021 Orlando Americana act Beemo take over the Plaza Live's Front Porch Series on Thursday

The current weekly run of the Plaza Live’s Front Porch Series is particularly heavy on roots music. And of the headliners set for this year, Orlando band Beemo are some of the best practitioners with a genteel Americana sound that weaves together folk, mountain and string traditions with a polished modern take.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Timucua Arts Foundation kicks off 2021 in-person live concerts with Jon Roniger and the Good for Nothin' Band

This show is especially notable because it kicks off the 2021 return to live-audience performances at cultural haven the Timucua Arts Foundation. But if the thought of public gatherings still gives you a rightful shiver, take some comfort and don't expect to arrive and see the venue packed out like the picture below.

Besides a new Acoustic Control System, the venue has invested in safety measures that now include limiting capacity to 25 percent, Reme Halo LED air purifiers in its HVAC system (like at the Vanguard), mask requirement, temperature checks upon entry and hand sanitizer stations throughout the space.
This return show at the White House on Thursday, Jan. 28, features New Orleans act Jon Roniger and the Good for Nothin’ Band, a horn-flanked quintet that specializes in a stylish gumbo of rock, jazz and blues.…

Tue-Jan-2021 American Airlines has too much wine, and they want to deliver it to your house

You might not be traveling anywhere anytime soon, but American Airlines is here to help you get through the pandemic without ever having to leave your home.

In June, airlines stopped selling alcohol on planes as a precaution to ensure adequate mask-wearing on flights.…

Tue-Jan-2021 Monster Jam returns to Orlando's Camping World Stadium in February

Monster Jam is coming! (Yes, really.)

Grave Digger and monster truck comrades like Zombie, Scooby-Doo!…

Tue-Jan-2021 Florida lawmakers don't want you to call this new proposal to collect online sales tax a new sales tax

A proposal that could pump more than $600 million a year in tax dollars into coronavirus-damaged state and local coffers got off to a quick start Monday in the Florida Senate.…

Mon-Jan-2021 Orlando-area Bagel Kings offer free bagel and coffee to first responders this week

Orlando Bagel King locations are offering free coffee and bagels to first responders this week.

From Jan. 25-31, Central Florida first responders — police, firefighters, paramedics — can stop into Bagel King, flash their work ID and grab a bagel with cream cheese and coffee, on the house.

The gratis coffee and bagel is available for pick-up or dine in.

“The job of first responders has gotten a lot more demanding since the pandemic. This is our way of showing appreciation to these important members of our community,” said Bagel King owner Tinamarie Schmit in a press statement.

Bagel King has three Orlando-area locations — Casselberry, Winter Park and Lake Mary.…

Mon-Jan-2021 International blues star Ana Popović comes to Winter Park's New Standard on Wednesday to shred the patriarchy

In terms of female representation, the blues makes rock music look like an egalitarian promised land, especially when it comes to leading roles. But Serbian dynamo Ana Popović packs the skills and cred to tilt the scales back toward the ladies.…

Mon-Jan-2021 The Falcon's Metal Mondays resumes its monthly pace tonight in Thornton Park

Metal Mondays, the Falcon’s long-running monthly heavy-metal night, reemerged from the pandemic freeze just last month and it’s a welcome return — if anything, just because headbanging to heavy metal is much nicer than the headbanging against the wall we’ve all been doing this past year plus.

Be it black, death, thrash, sludge, doom, progressive or just classic, DjVj pulls from pretty much every shade of real metal to upset the Thornton Park neighbors.…

Mon-Jan-2021 Leslye Gale's O-Town Lowdown on Magic 107.7 for Monday, Jan. 25, 2021

Every morning on Magic 107.7 FM, Leslye Gale discusses the most interesting Orlando Weekly stories of the day on "Chad & Leslye."…

Mon-Jan-2021 DeSantis is bummed the Senate flipped because Florida will get aid money that he 'would have voted against'

With Georgia swinging the U.S. Senate to Democratic control, Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed disappointment but acknowledged the change could mean more federal aid for Florida.

Mon-Jan-2021 Due to security concerns, Florida Legislature will not approve outdoors meetings

Despite what some Senate Democrats would like, lawmakers will not head outside for committee meetings as the weather gets warmer.

Mon-Jan-2021 Disney pulled the plug on Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, and nobody seemed to notice

Jan. 24 marked the end of an era for Disney Parks. This weekend, Disney pulled the plug on Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.…

Mon-Jan-2021 American Hotel and Lodging Association proposes turning more than 50,000 U.S. hotels into vaccination sites

As the greatest vaccination effort in generations begins in earnest, corporations, reliant on a quick recovery, are stepping up to help health officials speed up the rollout.…

Sat-Jan-2021 Maitland Audubon Center's 2020 rehabilitation numbers soar as 784 raptors are taken in for care

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland rehabilitated 784 raptors in 2020 and was able to release 54 percent of these birds back into the wild.

Since its founding in 1979, the Center has released thousands of raptors —birds of prey like hawks, owls, vultures, falcons or eagles — including over 600 bald eagles.

The Center was closed from March through September last year due to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic posed to the Center's work, not to mention safely accommodating volunteers and visitors. Currently, with the pandemic in mind, staff has set up an outdoor tent for new feathered patients, allowing members of the community to safely drop off any injured birds in an open-air and socially distanced fashion. 

"Birds come in with a wide variety of injuries, from falling out of nests or car collisions or even electrocution, " said Katie Warner, the Center's director, in a press statement.…

Fri-Jan-2021 Portillo's Beef Bus rolls into downtown Orlando to sling Chicago-style hot dogs and more through Jan. 30

Ahead of a scheduled Orlando outpost opening in March, fast-casual Chicago hot-dog chain Portillo's has parked its "Beef Bus" food truck in Lake Eola.

The Bus will be stationed on the 200 block of East Central Boulevard by the fountain through Jan. 30, serving up Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, cheese fries and more.

The Bus' current hours of operation are generally from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 24-28, and 3-8 p.m. on Jan. 22-23 and again Jan. 29-30.…

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