TAMPA — Locals know that a tour of Bern's Steak House is a history lesson, an experience, an indelible memory.
Tristan Eaton, a world-renowned artist from Los Angeles, took the tour a few weeks ago. He ate a meal there and drank some wine. He spoke to owner David Laxer.
And he became inspired.
Last week, Eaton started painting a massive mural on the Bern's Steak House wine warehouse wall facing Howard Avenue. The wall measures about 60 feet by 30 feet, and less than a week after he began, Eaton had pretty much covered the wall with a wide range of Bern's history and mood, including the face of founder Bern Laxer, the names of many employees who have worked at Bern's for decades, ornate iron work in the restaurant and wine bottles in their wooden racks.
The mural also includes parts of a map Bern displayed, rich wood from the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, chandeliers, Bacchus (the Roman god of agriculture and wine), Artemis (the Greek goddess of the hunt) and Florida panthers.
"I was inspired to capture the personality of the place, which is incredible," said Eaton, commissioned for the mural in a partnership by Bern's and CASS Contemporary art gallery to help commemorate the restaurant's 60th anniversary. "It's an honor to eat here, let alone paint here."
Eaton — who at 37 has a permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art and has painted murals all over the world, including some more than 10 stories tall — used more than 80 cans of spray paint on the Bern's mural. He worked off a small sketch he held in his left hand. The sketch, however, was merely a loose template because Eaton says he often likes to work "in the moment, spontaneously."
Bern's public relations director Brooke Palmer Kuhl said the mural will be a permanent part of the Bern's landscape.
"It's now a part of our story," Palmer Kuhl said.
The mural is to be covered today and then unveiled in a special ceremony the second week of April in conjunction with the annual Bern's Winefest.