ORLANDO-Capitalizing on a hot country-western musical market, restaurant owners/developers James W. Tilquist and Al Miller sank an estimated $3 million into converting a 15-year-old, 28,000-sf former Publix Supermarkets building into Desperado’s, a party place with a 50-foot long bar and a 3,900-sf dance floor.

That venture in itself wouldn’t be newsworthy in a metropolitan area but in Mount Dora, FL, a New England-themed city with a permanent population of 8,000, the commercial undertaking is getting everybody’s attention.

Even partygoers in Orlando, 30 miles south, and in Ocala, FL, 40 miles north, are getting the word and driving to the rural hotspot to check out the scene at the once-depressed Mount Dora Plaza shopping center.

Desparado’s can handle a crowd of 1,800. The two-acre surface parking lot accommodates about 500 vehicles.

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