Written by David "Indy" Graham
Back in January changes started to happen at Universal's Citywalk with the closure of the Fresh Produce and Island Clothing CO stores. The Island Clothing Co. was a quick short cut for many going to Universal's Studio park as it connected with Quiet Flight Surf Shop. It's now being reported that P!Q (pronounced “pick”) and the Fossil shop have closed for good at Citywalk as well. So what does this possibly mean and why are they closing a lot of stores there? The simplest answer is they were all 3rd party companies and Universal over the years has slowly been putting in company owned locations. As a business, why only take a portion of the profits when you can get 100% of them. Chances are in time you will only see a few that are not owned by Universal there. The ones I don't see going any where are Blue Man Group (for now), Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live, Cinemark. The ones I do see eventually leaving are Margaritaville as the Margaritaville Resort Orlando opened this past year and would only make sense to be there. As for Bubba Gump, it opened in 2006 so I'm not sure when their lease is up but I wouldn't be surprised if it closes down in the near future (I'll explain a little later) and then everything going up to the little food court area where Burger King, Panda Express and Moe's are located.
Now, let's take a look at the possible rumors, however remember until Universal officially makes an announcement, things are subject to change.
If you look at the places that did close or are rumored to within the next few years you will notice they either are grouped together and could be made into a larger location or they connect and possible have shared kitchens. Starting with the recently closed stores, documents are already being filed to combine them to make a larger location. (I'm really surprised they didn't look to move Cinnabon to it's own free standing location or expand Auntie Anne's and combine them as they are both owned by the same company). Additionally, I'm really not sure how Quiet Flight Surf Shop wasn't closed down to give that additional space but I wouldn't be surprised to see it go in the near future. The largest rumor is for that space to become a mega Universal store and closing the other location. Other rumors have mentioned an escape room. Universal even filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 9th 2018, seven Universal City Studios LLC applications referencing “Universal’s Great Movie Escape.” The last current rumor is a Nintendo store, however if plans to make it interactive are true then I think The Groove would be a better location. Besides, I'm surprised that place is still there as it's one of the last original locations from when Citywalk opened in 1999. Opening a store in Citywalk can serve two purposes -as it will help create hype for the Nintendo land going into Epic Universe but also Universal can gauge based on what the store offers what everyone's interests are for marketing.
Assuming the Universal store does move then that will free up that location (along with closing Rising Star) for another rumor, SNL Lounge. In recent years Universal has been putting more of their own IPs into the parks and SNL has been rumored even before the Jimmy Fallon ride came to be. The themed 2 story SNL Lounge would be more restaurant focused for lunch but then transition into a bar in the evenings with possible live entertainment. With Rising Star already set up with a stage area it would be easy for Universal to use that more for the live entertainment and focus the restaurant/gift shop in the lower old Universal store location. However that's not the only location that was being looked at for the SNL Lounge. Anyone remember Endangered Species or Motown Cafe back when Citywalk opened? The Motown Cafe was also 2 stories that now is taken up by Bubba Gumps and Red Coconuts. Bubba Gumps has been rumored to be on the chopping block for a while even though the kitchen had just been upgraded not long ago. If the SNL Lounge does go here then I'm hoping between that and the reworking of the recently closed stores Universal will figure out a better flow for the pathway around by the food court and Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company.
And speaking of the food court area, there has always been the rumor of this area being reworked with either closing, moving or remodeling that area completely. One long running rumor has Universal opening an In & Out Burger as the closest location currently is Texas. Honestly, I'd love to see that entire area get reworked as I don't feel the currently layout really works anymore with current crowd levels and most people pass right by it. I honestly think during the years while I was working for Universal I might have been up in that area twice to eat. Converting that area into a large In & Out Burger or even adding more family entertainment options I believe would benefit Universal. The more they have to offer and compete with Disney Springs or International Drive the more they can keep guests onsite. The one area with all the current upgrades to Citywalk is family entertainment after the parks close. Things like a bowling alley, laser tag, ropes course, indoor skydiving are just a few that have made the rumor list over the years. By adding just one of those, maybe a dinner show or a live performance theater would do great things for them. With Blue Man Group always rumored to be leaving, adding a live theater where they could bring in broadway-style shows like Shrek the Musical or even Wicked would have crowds coming there just for Citywalk. I personally can't wait to see what Universal has planned over the next few years not only for the current Citywalk but when they open the hub/citywalk area for Epic Universe.
So what do you hope to see open? Did I miss a rumor you might have heard about going in there? Let us know in the comments below. And again, thank you for being a part of the Universal Disney Nutz family.