The New Blue

The move and redesign of Blue Martini Lounge’s Orlando, FL, location with modern fixtures and a warmer vibe will increase patronage and serve as a template for a brand-wide update

Blue Martini’s new Orlando, FL, location will have a more “residential feel” to appeal to older early-evening crowds. (Rendering by Manhas Design)

Seven days a week, for the past 14 years, the Blue Martini Lounge brand has been serving drinks to a thirsty crowd from happy hour on into the early-morning hours. The company’s success depends on its patrons, so it’s no wonder that Blue Martini’s 12 bars have made customer satisfaction a top priority—and a big part of that is making sure the bars themselves have the appeal to draw a wide audience. It was with all this in mind that the brand came to the recent conclusion that it was ready for a face-lift.

In Florida specifically, when a Blue Martini lounge at a shopping center location in Orlando reached its lease limit, the owners saw an opportunity to relocate it to a more central area and update its personality. Loyal customers are in for a surprise this year, when a fresh interior design scheme will debut at the lounge’s new site at Pointe Orlando on International Drive. The location will rejuvenate Blue Martini’s presence in Orlando, and more significantly, it will mark a new chapter for the look of the brand as a whole.

The brand’s original lounge in the area had more of a nightclub atmosphere.
The brand’s original lounge in the area had more of a nightclub atmosphere.

Alex Peker, vice president of real estate and development for Blue Martini, says he and his team decided to move the Orlando location to the new area for several reasons. First, they generally look for sites in shopping centers with upscale restaurants, in parts of town that feel safe and have lots of foot traffic, leading to more opportunities to draw in customers. “[The new location at] International Drive is right by the convention center, which gets a mass amount of tourists,” Peker says. “We felt we weren’t getting as much of that [in the original location], so that was a main impetus for change.”

The move also gave the management team a chance to update the bar’s interior design to cater to a broader audience. Blue Martini’s customer base is relatively wealthy, but it’s typically divided by age and time of service, with happy hour patrons typically in the 35- to 50-year-old range and the late-night crowd skewing younger, from 20 to 45. “We’re kind of the step between the restaurant bar and the club,” Peker says.

Efficient LED lighting will replace banker-style lamps, but Italian leather banquettes and couches will keep the environment cozy. (Rendering by Manhas Design)
Efficient LED lighting will replace banker-style lamps, but Italian leather banquettes and couches will keep the environment cozy.
(Rendering by Manhas Design)

To appeal to everyone, the location’s new look will depart from the brand’s original blue-hued-neon aesthetic. In place of built-in banker-style lamps lining the bar, there will be custom-made ones with fresh, clean lines, and the light fixtures throughout the space will be fitted with soft, energy-saving LEDs. Plush Italian leather banquettes and couches will add a cozy, intimate feel, and the iconic, traditional Blue Martini fireplace fixtures in the VIP lounges will be upgraded with a style that’s more linear. “The vibe in the room will lend itself to less of a nightclub and more of a residential feel,” founder Mark Vasu says.

The Orlando location will be the first with the new interior design, but other bars will be retrofitted over the next few years, and in the meantime, the Blue Martini brand will continue to expand. Locations in Puerto Rico and Louisiana are under construction, and the company is currently looking at new sites in Houston, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta. It’s also aiming to generate new growth via franchising. “Franchising will be important in growing the brand in secondary markets as well as abroad,” Peker says. “We would like to concentrate corporate growth efforts in major US markets.”

While short-term growth prospects are promising, Peker is quick to clarify that the overall mission is longevity. “We’ve been in business for 14 years, and we’ve never closed a bar,” he says. “We’ve had slow but steady growth, concentrated on making sure every bar was built and run the right way, and we intend to keep doing that.”