The Bodisattva Social Club

When it comes to Downtown Orlando, The Bodhisattva Social Club was one of  the last of its kind, a bar catering to the bohemian crowd.

I think it opened in 1999 or the year 2000.  At first, two people owned it.  Then, the late Tom Butler became the primary owner.

The bar contained two floors.  The following photos are of the first floor.

Bodhisattva labeled itself a nudist Buddhist biker bar.  In the following pic, you can see Tom’s bike in the corner.

He put this sign on top of it.

Then, there was one of the best jukebox collections in Central Florida, containing everything from hip-hop, rock to jazz.

The following photos happened upstairs on the second floor.

Jeff Nolan. Sometimes he worked the upstairs bar.

Yet, most people know him as a guitar god.

Jeff worked with Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilot’s lead singer) on Weiland’s 1998 solo album named 12 Bar Blues.   Recently, Jeff hosted a Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia tour.

This is him with the lovely and talented Jen Paxton.

DiViNCi. Beats-maker for hip-hop group Solillaquists of Sound.

Him and lead rapper, Swamburger.  This was years before they were signed to ANTI-/Epitaph records.

John David Baldridge. Many Central Florida musicians and singers covered his music.

That’s me in the Ice Cube shirt. I forgot who the other guy was.  On my far right behind me is Tom Ward and Jim O’Rourke, two local musicians.

Tom Butler never allowed folks to take his picture.  Yet, local artist Dan Erminger managed to get one.

Photo by Dan Erminger.

Bodhisattva closed in 2004.  A short time later, Tom Butler died.

Like I mentioned earlier, Bodisattva was one of  the last of its kind in Downtown Orlando.  Nowadays, the bohemian crowd hangs out in the Virginia Drive and Mills Avenue area.  Some go to the Milk District.  All areas located near Downtown Orlando’s edge.  Yet, not exactly located in Downtown Orlando.

Still, Bodhisattva and Tom Butler will always be missed by many people.

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5 Comments on “The Bodisattva Social Club”


  1. Gods I miss this place. Had just gotten divorced and moved to Orlando, where I had a pile of friends. Had a place on SOuth Street literally three blocks from Bodisattva. I was one of the very few Harley guys Tom wanted to come ride with the Very Odd Motorcycle Club. I think it was the original artwork by Neil Gaiman on my front fender. But the bar soon closed, and Tom left us right after. Still regretting never taking him up on the offer.

  2. Lesa Says:

    So glad I found these pics, THX:) …as hard core chick from BSS days – no need to give MY resume – trust me as Tom did, and he was our friend and neighbor -was there the day he passed to support his wife -with so many others…sigh…worst day of my life. The thing is, BSS was an extension of his motorcycle group – peaceful but going to call you on it. All good, no harm; and Tom made the BSS an alternative bar to the alternative bars…so it was ever so special. Created by those that said: Thx Tom, I’ll take you up on your offer to DO something:) Tom made us a place where we could be ourselves, and outsiders like to talk about the S&M, yes that happened, the naked biz, yes that happened…But what really happened, which is so hard to describe, unless you where there, was the LOVE…THAT happened…and all were welcomed, but if you did not have love for the BSS, you were quickly escorted OUT. No pain, no violence, just a small correction. Thx for these images.

  3. Lesa Says:

    LOL – Forgot to mention, if it was your Birthday?… Be prepared to NOT sit for a week:) BSS alums can speak to that….


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