Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Restaurant veteran bringing tapas to U.S. 19 in Clearwater

Doug Illman, the man behind the transformation of the McNulty Station building into De Santo Latin American Bistro (now the Red Mesa Cantina) and Push Ultra Lounge in downtown St. Petersburg, has a new project on the horizon.

Illman will take over the old WildFish location at 28910 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater, transforming it into Basque, which will open in July.

This new project will be a Spanish tapas restaurant with a nightclub. He is partnering with Keith Williamson, Sam Heller, Tyler Lasher and David Awslander.

After selling his McNulty interests and the nearby Buona Vita Trattoria and Paddy Burkes, both of which have closed, Illman spent time in Botswana building a community center.

Instrumental in bringing new dynamism and life to downtown St. Petersburg in 2008, Illman plans to do the same to U.S. 19.

"We're in the building now, redoing things in greens and browns, similar to De Santo, and we're bringing the garden indoors, with a waterfall. The property really lends itself to that."

The menu will be Old World and New World tapas, most in the $8 to $12 range, and later in the evenings the destination will feature DJs and dancing.

"Mediterranean is hot right now and tapas is hot. I said to the partners that something that inspires me a lot is the Basque region of Spain, and before you knew it, that was the name," says Williamson, who was previously executive chef at Ocean Prime and Jackson's, both in Tampa. Basque will be "a restaurant first. Nightclubs come and go. It has to be the food that drives the business."

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