Tampa, Fla., may not be the first location that comes to mind as a hotbed for gastronomic creativity. But the team behind the famous Bern’s Steak House in the Soho neighborhood of the city is single-handedly putting Tampa on the map. After successfully expanding the Bern’s Steak House legacy to include its sister restaurant SideBern’s as well as Bern’s Fine Wines and Spirits, David Laxer, son of founder Bern Laxer, has plans to open the Epicurean, a 137-room boutique hotel across the street that will cater to the culinary crowd.
Scheduled for a mid-December opening, the Epicurean will be Tampa’s first boutique hotel, and it also marks the first new-build property to join Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Laxer teamed up with Joe Collier of Mainsail Lodging and Development and Carl Lindell of Lindell Capital to get the hotel off the ground.
“The idea to develop the property across the street came about seven years ago,” says Laxer, who serves as president and owner of Bern’s. “We wanted to see what else we could do to make the area look better and expand our brand. We thought the next evolution in hospitality would be a hotel.”
The food-focused hotel will be anchored by its signature restaurant Élevage, an eatery helmed by long-time SideBern’s chef Chad Johnson that will feature a reinterpretation of American classic cuisine. Other food and beverage offerings will include Edge Social Drinkery, the hotel’s rooftop bar; Chocolate Pi patisserie, an indulgent dessert shop; and a Bern’s wine shop location that will be accessible from the hotel lobby.
“When you think about this hotel being 137 rooms, and you see what’s under its roof, it really has the amenities of a 500- or 600-room property,” says Tom Haines, general manager of the Epicurean. “There is a hunger for food and wine knowledge, education, and entertainment. This is the first project that puts it all together in one package.”
One of the main highlights of the boutique property will be its 36-seat Epicurean Theater, a state-of-the-art, Viking-equipped show kitchen that will allow guests to enjoy cooking classes, team-building exercises, and educational opportunities. The theater will host demonstrations from celebrity chefs and be a big part of the meeting packages offered by the property. For Laxer, the theater is an essential part of making the Epicurean stand out as a destination hotel.
“My father was big into education. He was always trying to learn new things,” he says. “When we were thinking about the hotel, we really wanted there to be that educational component. There are so many things we can do beyond the traditional wine tasting and cooking classes.”