By Sam Slaughter, Opinion Editor
A few weeks ago, DeLand won “Best Other Downtown” from The Orlando Sentinel. This is all well and good—hip, hip, hoorah and all that—but Deland shouldn’t have won.
I was in Mount Dora the weekend before voting finished for a half marathon and it was awesome. The downtown itself is aesthetically pleasing and there are a variety of shops and restaurants offering options for patrons. You know what else is great about Mount Dora’s (and I’m suspecting many other towns that did not make it to the finals) downtown? It is open at night.
Mount Dora should’ve won. They should’ve, but they didn’t, I’m guessing, because of sheer population.
DeLand isn’t worthy of the title of “Best Other Downtown” unless that constitutes a downtown that closes when the early bird specials start.
On any given night, my roommate and I, or my girlfriend and I, or any other combination thereof, might decide we want to go out for a meal. Depending on the time, we’re limited severely. Tony’s closes at 9, Taco Amigo, it seems, is open for three hours a week that are chosen by reading tea leaves, and Santorini also closes pretty early.
What about late night food? What if I want to eat fried food or get pizza that wasn’t previously frozen at 10:00 or 11:00 at night while watching sports? A diet subsisting of only Checkers will lead to an early grave. I don’t need to participate in that diet to know it.
It isn’t only the food, though (admittedly, the food options fare much better than anything else), but the stores themselves. I’m not saying they need to be open until midnight, but staying open past 5 p.m. would, I think, do wonders for the downtown because people would have a reason to come get dinner then do shopping. What’s there to do after one gets dinner in DeLand currently? You can maybe see a show at the Athens or you can go to a bar. That’s it.
In addition, if stores were open later, that would, oh, I don’t know, possibly provide jobs for students in town? What a novel idea. Bring more people in, support the students that live in town.
From there, the downtown may look more enticing for other businesses or restaurants and hey, maybe sometime in the future, DeLand may really be able to earn “Best Other Downtown.”