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New Off the Wagon concept

Herald-Tribune

Hurricane-inspired Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer & Tequila Bar coming to Venice

By Jimmy Geurts

A restaurant and bar inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma had its opening delayed by another adversity — the COVID-19 pandemic — but is now nearing completion. Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer & Tequila Bar, a new concept from managing partner Tommy Villani and chef Mike Leopold of Venice brewpub Off the Wagon, plans to finish construction by midJune and hopes to open soon after. It will be located in the recently rebranded Wellen Park, formerly known as West Villages.

Construction began near the start of the year, with hopes of opening in time for spring training before everyday life shut down due to COVID-19. Once construction’s complete, Villani said they’ll see where Florida is in terms of reopening phases and bar and indoor seating capacity to determine their opening date.

“ Every construction project I’ve done in my past, I’ve literally had a Shop-Vac out cleaning up while my first customers are walking in,” Villani said. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to maybe set up and have some time to properly do a soft open and train.”

The idea for Irma’s Tacos originated in the aftermath of the hurricane in 2017. Off the Wagon never lost power, but had reduced its inventory in the expectation that it might. When crowds came to the restaurant in search of air conditioning, drinks and food, Villani said all they could serve were tacos.

“I think we served about 500 people that day,” Villani said. “We were slammed — every seat in the dining room, every seat in the bar was full. That was something that really propelled Off the Wagon and helped us within the community as far as our reputation.”

The menu will feature 26 tacos, from the traditional barbacoa and al pastor to offerings like Korean short rib or cheeseburger. There will also be vegan options and all tacos can be served as bowls. Other small plates such as Mexicanstyle wings and multiple salsas will be available, and the menu may be expanded over time, Villani said.

Over a hundred different tequilas will be available, while 3 Bridges Brewing, which is housed inside Off the Wagon, will provide the craft beer. Twelve taps will offer 3 Bridges favorites such as its Station light lager and Tasty Pig IPA, as well as Mexican-inspired brews such as a chocolate pepper stout.

The interior will have a contemporary Southwest-inspired style, with tile and black-and-white patterns along with liquor lockers showcasing some of the more expensive tequila bottles, Villani said. There will also be an outdoor patio with combination lounge and table space.

Takeout will be available as well with Off the Wagon using the time it was open for to-go only to test out some of the tacos on Irma’s menu.

Irma’s Tacos is at 12221 Mercado Drive, Venice. For more information, visit facebook.com/irmastacos.

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