Although Rocco Mangel won't hold his grand opening for Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar at University Town Center in Sarasota until March 6, the party has started.
On Tuesday night, Mangel held an invitation-only event that included free drinks and food for the hundreds who packed every inch of the 6,200-square-foot, open-air restaurant and bar. It is Mangel's 10th Rocco's Tacos restaurant.
The steady beat of techno dance music only gave way to a Mariachi band at times, and the tequila never stopped flowing.
Capping the night was Mangel doing his "tequila dance" on the bar.
It was his first tequila dance with his special white platform shoes in years. For one thing, Mangel was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis seven years ago and he hasn't had an alcoholic drink since. The other reason he hasn't danced on the bar has been the pandemic.
In opening his new restaurant in Sarasota, Mangel said he was very hands-on during the construction process, which gave him particular joy. So on Tuesday night, the white shoes were back, and Mangel walked the bar, pouring tequila into anyone who opened their mouth to give him a target.
He also threw T-shirts and hats to those in the crowd.
The restaurant will continue to host guests during its soft-opening before the grand opening March 6.