Inhabit: Will Walker at Will’s Pub

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Inhabit is a series by local photographer David Lawrence (Website), that shares stories about the people who call Orlando home. It’s an exploration of where people live and spend their days, whether that be at home, in an office, the streets of downtown, or anywhere in between. Lawrence explores who people are and how they ended there.

Every other week we will be sharing Lawrence’s interviews, featuring a different Orlandoan and telling the story of the places they inhabit. Lawrence is available for private photography projects and can be reached through his website, above.

*This interview was transcribed and edited from an audio interview.

Who are you?

Will: William Walker, I’m 45. I’ll be 46 soon. I am in the bar business. I’m from Orlando, born and raised. Living in Sanford now.

 

Where are we currently and what is important to you about this space?

Will: We’re at Will’s Pub. My focus on why it’s important has changed as Will’s has, but it’s more of a community building aspect than it is a music venue anymore. We do music, we do lots of other things but it’s all really to build community. It used to be more about exposing people to new music. As people’s focus on how they find new music has changed, our job in that has changed as well. People find out about things on the internet and then see bands that are breaking in at 500 person rooms or even festivals before they play places like Will’s. Used to be thousands of bands on the road in vans with little trailers behind them and that was what we did, so that’s the change.

 

You said, it’s about community. What is an ideal picture of community look like for you?

Will: Ideal? Not really my job to sort that out, it’s just bringing people together, whether they get together and meet each other and move on to do other art projects, whether that be music or actual physical art, comedy, poetry, whatever. Then also being able to get people together that don’t necessarily have the same musical taste, art taste, politics, whatever and at the end of the night not have any problem and they walk away better for it. That’s my idea how we build community.

We certainly don’t know each other all that well by any means but I told you about my project when it first launched and you were more than willing to help and even sponsored some columns. I see that pattern in your life. What makes you so quickly to be able to just say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” to so many things?

Will: Well, I mean a short answer to probably a fairly complex question is, 22 years ago when I opened Will’s, we had a bunch of pool tables, these same coolers, a bar, some games and a loose idea of what we were trying to do. Within a short amount of time, I met a ton of local musicians, I was never involved in the Orlando music scene before that point. They wanted to play. It suited my needs as well because we weren’t doing poorly at all, but it was obviously something that people wanted. We catered to it. Those same people that I met 20-something years ago are friends of mine still. I helped them get where they needed to go and they were very supportive of me as well. I try and continue to build those relationships the same way. I still communicate with some of those kids that are now in their ’30s. It builds relationships that help me down the line and it gets their projects off the ground. It’s kind of scratching each other’s backs.

Will’s Pub started out on 17-92, just off of Princeton. Since relocating to the Mills 50 District, Will has gone on to create two other successful projects just next door; Lil Indies and his most recent endeavor, Dirty Laundry. As I listened to him talk about the process of extension, he told me a story I’ve heard from countless other business owners. Creating something and getting it off the ground is difficult. The main difficulty? The city.

Will’s plan wasn’t to open another bar where Indies is now. But by the time he went back and forth for approval on his idea, he had spent so much time and money that he had to find an almost instant way to begin making cash.

Will: It’s frustrating. You go to Portland or some other comparable city of size. You go in in all these quirky spaces and they’re allowed to do creative things. It doesn’t have to fit into the box that the city has. When we were doing Indies I didn’t want to open a bar there. I literally was going to do an art space. I was going to keep my office in the front. People could come in and do installations.

Like, Doug Rhodehammel was doing a lot of Stormtrooper figurines. Things like that can’t exist in a lot spaces because it takes time to set up. It has to make sense financially. That space, I wanted to do things like that.

We went on to talk about family life, which ultimately led back again to what he does for work today. He lives in Sanford with has girlfriend and daughter. Will found out they were expecting a child when he was 40. As you could guess, this really changed things for him. Life was no longer just about keeping the lights on for himself, but for a family as well. This also made the decision to turn the space Indies now holds into a bar way easier.

William: I was pretty set in my ways. Will’s has been around a while, I wasn’t necessarily looking to do more. It’s not that I’m lazy, I never feel like we’re done. So moving on to another project means that I should be done with the one that I was doing, or at least get to a point where I’m happy with it, which I’m not. It’s hard to move forward.

People ask me about doing things in Sanford. Firstly, I’m not done here so I have plenty to do. Just doing something because– I don’t know why I would do that basically. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I moved out because of the affordability but also being far enough away from work where if a light bulb’s out, I don’t feel like I have to drive here to change it. We can make that happen without me. It’s good. The first year, the election was happening so I was totally glued to whatever radio news I could get my ears on or talk radio or whatever. Once that ended, the love affair with driving back and forth is gone.


Will continues to work though. He works his ass off, heck, he was literally getting ready to put a roof on at the Dirty Laundry space when we were conducting this interview.

William: I’ve helped other people open things. I did Will’s South which was at Oak Ridge and Orange Avenue. It’s Jerry’s Tap Room now. It was awesome but it’s gone. I helped open Belle Isle Yacht Pub. If anything down the line, I would like to maybe put in a kitchen at the laundromat and people could use it as a catering kitchen. We’d also have the ability to sell food in here. I don’t want to prepare food at Will’s Pub. We had food at the old location. It’s a pain.

I have no real desire to do anything with a solid structure. I would like to cater more events because we have the ability to take what we do on the road, especially with Indies.


Will’s Pub is open seven days a week. Check the calendar to see what shows are coming up or just pop in. You’re almost always guaranteed to find something fun going on. His other projects, Lil Indies and Dirty Laundry are next door. When you’re done rocking out, you can get a cocktail.

Editor’s Note: We import all of Will’s events straight to our online calendar via Facebook.

About the photographer: 

David Lawrence is an Orlando-based photographer with a passion for people and storytelling. Lawrence lives in Colonialtown with his wife, Dawn, and when he’s not taking photos he occasionally attends church, drinks a lot of coffee, and overall just tries to be a kind human.

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