In Fort Lauderdale, new restaurant-bars to rise from two historic churches

Two historic churches within one mile of each other in downtown Fort Lauderdale are being turned into chic spots for dining, drinking entertainment and, in one of them, a little late-night hell-raising.

Located in the heart of Flagler Village, at 441 NE Third Ave., First Evangelical Lutheran Church is in the middle of a multi-million dollar renovation of its interior that will yield a 220-seat restaurant, with an outdoor bar bracketed by a 3,000-square-foot landscaped terrace.

The most controversial part of the remodel is work that will turn the main sanctuary of the church into a 5,000-square-foot nightclub. The project, called The Abbey, is by local hospitality veteran David Cardaci, best known for the popular Rhythm & Vine — laidback beer garden by day, pumping music venue by night — as well as the Wilder cocktail lounge and the Whole Enchilada fast-casual chain.

Just a mile up the street, the Fourth Avenue International Worship Center was recently purchased by Eduardo Pelaez, who has developed properties in Miami’s Wynwood and Little River neighborhoods. A resident of Fort Lauderdale, Pelaez’s vision for his church includes a food-hall scenario featuring a main restaurant, with several boutique cafes and retail spaces, perhaps a brewery or distillery, all enclosed by a densely tropical garden.

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