Venue Guide: City of Asylum | Venue Guides | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Venue Guide: City of Asylum

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Heading to a venue for the first time can be anxiety-inducing or at the very least cause inconveniences. Where’s will call? Is there parking? Will you have to hide your expensive bag behind a tree because it’s too big to pass security?

Pittsburgh City Paper wants to help make attending shows as comfortable as possible. So, welcome to our venue guide, where you can find out what to wear, where to smoke, and everything in between. CP will detail the ins and outs of venues in Pittsburgh, so you can fully enjoy the experience and not worry about little nuisances like not knowing the bar was cash-only.

Fifteen years ago, founders of the non-profit City of Asylum, Diane Samuels and Henry Reese, opened their loft to writers, musicians, and artists for small, salon-style events. Pushing the furniture out of the way, they would bring in folding chairs, food, and wine and allow anyone to come into their home to enjoy the festivities. Now, at 40 West North Avenue in the North Side, the location is a bigger, better replicate of those initial days inside Samuels and Reese’s home — an accessible space for everyone.

City of Asylum is three different entities — a bookstore, a lounge, and a restaurant (Brugge on North) — that prides itself on bringing people of different backgrounds together. The book store represents their mission to serve and represent marginalized voices, and letters on the ceiling titles and front glass walls are characters from various alphabets around the world. It’s “where Pittsburgh meets the world, and the world meets Pittsburgh.”

- Non-smoking venue (this includes vapes)
- Smoking is allowed out front, and reentry is permitted

Food & Beverage
- City of Asylum is attached to restaurant, Brugge on North (part of a local chain)
- Brugge on North hours overlap with City of Asylum’s
- When Brugge is open, patrons can purchase beverages and bring into City of Asylum’s show area
- Food cannot be brought into the show area
- (Since Brugge is connected to City of Asylum, patrons can sit on restaurant side and eat while enjoying entertainment in the show area)
- Check out menu at
- Cash, credit, and debit are accepted at Brugge
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available
- Mid-range prices (i.e. a glass of wine is about $10)
- Brugge closed on Mondays
- If there is a show on that day, a satellite bar with wine and beer is often available

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham

- Men and women’s bathrooms located behind the stage, down hallway
- Women’s bathroom has three stalls
- Men’s bathroom has three stalls and one urinal
- All-gender, handicap accessible bathroom located downstairs
- Ramp and elevator found down hallway on left side of the stage

Age Restrictions
- Family friendly and all ages, with parent discretion
-Because City of Asylum is about freedom of speech, they will not censor a performer (many times content warning will not be put on site)

- Capacity: 200
- Shows are seated
- Sit down, auditorium style

- Paid street parking in front of the venue (free after 6 p.m.)
- Parking garage located behind venue
- 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 54 buses get within walking distance
- 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 12 buses get within a longer walking distance
- Uber or Lyft
- Walkable to those living in the North Side

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham

- No bag policy
- No dress code

Coat Check
- Hooks located on back hallway wall, use at own discretion

- All events are free, but patrons should RSVP online

- ADA compliant
- No steps to enter venue, there’s a ramp and a button to open door

Fun Facts
- Is it Alphabet City or City of Asylum? Alphabet City is the name of the building, and City of Asylum is the organization that lives inside
- The bookstore has the largest collection of translated works in Pittsburgh
- The bookshelves are on tracks and collapse into the back of the building for events
- City of Asylum is the U.S. headquarters of the International Cities of Refuge
Network and is the largest sanctuary program in the U.S.
-More than 180 events are hosted each year in the space

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