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Neighborhood report

Restaurant veteran will try cattle ranching

A SoHo pioneer sells his St. Bart's Island House restaurant, turns Ceviche over to employees and explores a new career.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published February 3, 2006


Cattle ranching. It seemed like the appropriate next course for longtime SoHo restaurateur Gordon Davis, whose children recently left the nest. He'd trade his filet mignon for something a bit more alive.

"I'm thinking about the next chapter," Davis said last week. "The restaurant business has been great to me here in South Tampa."

Davis, 50, gave the SoHo district its name in the mid 1990s as president and founder of the SoHo Merchants and Residents Association. He envisioned a bohemian neighborhood of independent businesses, and for many, his name is synonymous with SoHo dining.

Now, he's ready to hand over the reins.

Davis recently sold St. Bart's Island House on Howard Avenue to Ocala nightclub owner Philip Glassman.

"He's got some great ideas, and he's going to take it to another level than we have financially," Davis said. "He's very innovative as far as the kinds of ideas he has for hospitality, service and renovation."

Glassman wants to build Club Prive, an old-Hollywood-style members-only club, on the north side of the property, and leave the restaurant and bar open to the public. He hasn't released more details, but confirmed that about 100 people have expressed interest in club memberships, which will cost $5,000.

"It's going to be really beautiful," Davis said. "We're kind of excited to see our old property get a facelift."

Davis said most of his St. Bart's staff will stay and work for Glassman. As for the Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant, his other SoHo restaurant, he transferred ownership to his employees. However, he plans to keep a hand in the business after he moves.

A Berkeley Preparatory School graduate, Davis got his start in the business delivering wine to tables and working in the kitchen at Bern's Steak House. His father, Gene Davis, was a major alcoholic-beverage distributor, and his mother, Helen Gordon Davis, was a state senator and chairwoman of the Hillsborough Democratic Party.

Prior to St. Bart's, Davis owned and operated Le Bordeaux Country French Restaurant there for many years. In the Bayshore Royal condo development a few blocks away, Davis ran Exodus, a French-Vietnamese restaurant, which became Ceviche in 1997. In October, he opened a second Ceviche location in St. Petersburg.

Le Bordeaux became St. Bart's in 2002, a venture inspired by Davis vacationing in the islands of Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Bartholomew.

Davis hasn't decided where he will move to or when, but he's sure of one thing.

"Restaurants have been a great creative outlet for me," he said. "I'm not going to retire and watch Black Angus grow bigger. I'll do something."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 813 226-3354 or at azayas@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 2, 2006, 11:27:10]


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