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Re-Creating the Bern's Experience

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  • | 6:00 p.m. May 21, 2007
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Re-Creating the Bern's Experience

redevelopment by Janet Leiser | Senior Editor

From the wine cellars to SideBerns to an "epicurean hotel," David Laxer builds

on what his father, Bern Laxer, started five decades ago in a strip center.

The focus at Bern's, one of America's most famous steakhouses, has always been on the fine food and wine, along with the experience, but never on the exterior of the warehouse-like building on South Howard Avenue in Tampa.

Bern's, which has served presidents, rock stars and many other famous people, as well as Florida's well-heeled, is now building a boutique condo hotel across the street from the steakhouse with its red and gold kitschy decor and nearly half-a-million-bottle wine cellar.

David Laxer, the son of restaurant founder Bern Laxer, announced the name of his newest project, The Epicurean Hotel, at an annual wine-tasting event late last month. The 75-suite hotel, 18,000-square-foot signature restaurant, wine shop, spa and parking garage have been on the drawing board for several years. Construction started in January on the project, which is expected to cost between $20 million and $25 million, and should be completed late next year.

"We believe that we can successfully bring our well known guest service and attention to detail to this new entity," David Laxer said in an announcement to the media. "The hotel will also fulfill a niche market in Tampa as a boutique hotel that will offer both business and leisure guests a complete epicurean experience in accommodations."

Bern's Steak House was started in 1956, five years after Bern and Gert Laxer moved to Tampa from New York City where Bern Laxer ran a small ad agency. The couple bought a bar, called the Beer Haven, in a strip center on Howard and turned it into a restaurant that became so popular it eventually occupied all the center. Bern Laxer, a perfectionist, was most comfortable in the kitchen or office, tending to details. He worked until 2 a.m. every day the restaurant was open.

His son took over Bern's in 1993 when Bern Laxer was seriously injured in a car wreck. In 1996, David Laxer opened up SideBern's, a trendy spinoff of the main restaurant that features dishes from around the world.

By 2002, when Bern Laxer died at the age 78, the main restaurant had grown to seven dining rooms and 350 seats. It includes the dessert room and a telephone book-size wine list featuring 7,000 labels.

The Epicurean will also offer fine wine and food, delivered to a guest's room until 2 a.m.

The hotel will feature upscale wine and cooking demonstrations, classes and wine tastings at the Bern Laxer School of Food and Wine. Laxer's partner, Chef Jeannie Pierola, will design the menu. And Bern's Fine Wine and Spirits, now located down the street, will expand into a new 9,000 square-foot-location in the hotel with guest wine lockers and storage.

Laxer says the hotel and restaurant will be one-of-a-kind.

"We believe and have believed for some time that our guest-centric focus on service and attention to dining detail are pretty special...and when you are in the business of guest service, the next logical step after world-class food and wine is accommodations," said Bern's spokesperson Heather Sherer-Berkoff.

Bern's hired Urban Studio Architects to design the project, Smith & Associates Real Estate to sell the guest suites, which will start in the mid $200,000s, and Coral Hospitality to provide technical services, as well as provide hotel management services once the property opens.


Company. Bern's Family of Legends

Other. Expanding the legacy.

Key. Plans to recreate Bern's experience for hotel/condo guests


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