Bars have always been a place for people to gather. Labeled “third places,” bars are spaces that aren’t home or work where people congregate to be together and share experiences.
Whether a bar is hosting trivia nights, workshops, special themed events, fundraisers, shows or meet-ups, it invites patrons to connect over something important to them. Lissa Brennan, a bartender at Pirata Caribbean Cuisine x Rum Bar, has recently started a weekly Artist Appreciation Night that invites those involved or interested in the city’s arts scene to share conversation, ideas and camaraderie.
Brennan, a playwright, actor and writer, pursues her passions as much as she can while making the bulk of her income in the service industry. She knows many artists in Pittsburgh live similarly.
“Everyone who is a server knows someone who’s in the arts ... It would be great if you could get paid as much to be an actor in Pittsburgh as you can to be a bartender, but that’s not a possibility,” she says. With the pay gap in mind, Artist’s Appreciation Night offers discounts to anyone involved in Pittsburgh’s arts community. Brennan prepares a feature drink and a rum feature, and offers 15 percent off regularly priced menu items (happy hour discounts are not included).
Brennan works to bring her passion and creativity to her bartending. She often spends time reading about and researching cocktails and spirits and recently returned from a trip to Barbados that focused on its rum industry. “As somebody who has other pursuits, this allows me creativity and flexibility,” she says.
It’s been about six weeks since Brennan started the program, and the response has been positive from both her employees and her patrons.
“When I came to [management] with this there wasn’t a second a hesitation,” she says. Most of the advertising for the event so far has been word-of-mouth, but plans are in the works to ramp that up.
“I have to admit, part of it is me wanting to create a specific vibe at the bar. I love to have people who I can talk to about the arts and who can talk to each other,” she says. “I want to do whatever I can do to contribute to the arts community.”
Editor’s note: Lissa Brennan is an occasional City Paper contributor.