Photographers ask you to smile for the camera, DJs play music, and the dance floor is packed: Downtown Orlando thrives on a Friday night.

Aaron LaVene, manager of Bar One in downtown Orlando, says the Smile for Camera rave parties have become a big hit on Friday nights.

ORLANDO — Is there life in Downtown Orlando these days, years after the neighborhood saw a lot of its regulars go to either Downtown Disney or Citywalk instead?
A better question, Aaron D. LaVene says, is whether there’s room to maneuver on the dance floor every Friday night at Bar One. Most of the time, he said, the answer is only for those who get there early.
“We’re usually pretty much packed on Fridays now,” LaVene said.
LaVene is the manager and head bartender at Bar One, the nightclub at 1 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando that’s been demonstrating that Orlando loves to party, and there’s a lot of life still in downtown.
Even before a new performing arts center gets built, the crowds are packing into downtown at night, making it a vibrant area for a lively night time social scene.
In fact, LaVene said, downtown Orlando has also become the ideal opportunity location for DJs who love a huge crowd looking to drink and dance well into the night.
“We have a VIP section with couches and VIP tables, and we have a stage for the DJs,” LaVene said, adding that downtown’s appetite for good DJs is “really good. They’re doing really well here.”
Part of the nightclub’s appeal may be special Friday night events like Smile for Camera Presents: DMFAO! @ Bar One, which kicks off every Friday at 10 p.m., ending at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The fun starts with resident DJs Joey Paranoia of Joey Paranoia Music, Nicademass, and Dr. Khan.
It’s the perfect anecdote, LaVene said, to capping off a long work week.
“This is our third week doing it,” LaVene said. “Basically it’s just like a rave party. Every Friday night, we have house music, electro and dance music, from some really good DJs from Orlando, and there there are drink specials all night. You get free shots until 12 o’clock for ladies, and everyone gets in free until 12.”
After that, it’s $5 for women, $5 for men over 21, and $10 for men 18 and older.
These Friday night rave parties were created by Smile for Camera, billed on its web site as “your source for music news, exclusive artist interviews, and club/party/concert photos for the Eastern United States.”
Based in Orlando and Miami, the company was founded by photographer/graphic designer Kevin Collier and writer Melanie Gapany in 2008 to “capture the excitement, energy, and personality of the most connected generation, hard at play.” They have correspondents and guest contributors from all over the world who capture the excitement at these parties, including the ones at Bar One.
“They’re a promo group,” LaVene said. “They do promotions and stuff. They bring DJs in and they have their own concerts. Basically they promote this on Friday nights and they bring in photographers to cover the event.”
And it all goes right onto the web site: click, then post. If you missed last Friday’s party, go to the web site, check out the photos, and read the blog.
“Let’s just call it a great party,” said Jason Pecoraro, a member of the Smile for Camera team. Although it started as an online photo site, he said it’s expanded considerably, and Smile for Camera has developed into a consulting business for nightclubs, with offices in Orlando and Miami.
“Starting as a photo blog, we’ve been growing from there, and expanded to content and interviews,” he said. “We’re also now doing consulting work for different clubs.”
That includes hosting special events like DMFAO at Bar One, designed to make the clubs more interesting and appealing to patrons, Pecoraro said, adding that Bar One was chosen for a good reason.
“It’s a great location,” he said. “It’s like real estate — location, location, location.”
Lavene agreed that Bar One is the perfect place for a event like this.
“We have a lot of cool lighting systems, and a real fog machine,” he said.
Bar One is an 8,500 square feet, two story nightclub with a dance floor on each level, three bars, flat-screen TVs and VIP bottle service. Open seven days a week from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., it serves an assortment of wines, imported beers, cocktails, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, Vodka, domestic beers, and beer specials. There are other special events that happen there, including a Ladies Night.
It’s also within easy walking distance of other bars, nightclubs and cocktail lounges, including Zen Exotic Lounge & Club, The Beacham, Touch Orlando, VAIN Nightclub and Mr. Sisters.
It’s also, LaVene noted, a great place to get charged up once the DJ starts playing that music.
“It’s pretty high energy here,” he said.
Pecoraro predicted downtown Orlando — still a fairly small neighborhood for what is otherwise a major metropolitan area — is on the way up.
“Downtown proper is a lot like it was two years ago,” he said. “It’s a weird market. It’s a small big city downtown. Downtown is kind of small, but it’s trying to make a comeback.”
That effort is likely to succeed, Pecoraro said, as the city’s night life get’s more interesting — as a Smile for Camera works with clubs to create special events designed to bring more people to downtown for their weekend party fix.
“We definitely had a big role in the resurgence of downtown,” he said. “I don’t see this letting up. Downtown is just getting bigger, especially with UCF (University of Central Florida) becoming one of the top schools in the country. At the end of the day, people can party and do what they want to do.”
To learn more about Smile for Camera, log on to http://www.smileforcamera.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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