‘Paint Nite’ paints a picture: Boston wants more creative ways to drink

On an otherwise dull Monday night, a man paints a portrait of the Eiffel Tower in between sips of his beer at Joshua Tree Bar & Grille in Allston.

While many bar-goers feel it is bad enough Boston is deprived of the Happy Hour specials enjoyed by many other cities, there seems to be a longing in the Hub for something else – creative ways to enjoy those after work cocktails.

That was clear at the Joshua Tree Bar and Grille in Allston last week, where about 30 people sat down in front of empty canvases to paint the Eiffel Tower at “Paint Nite,” a new and colorful twist on a typical night out.

The series, which began in May, lets people sip on cocktails while getting a step-by-step painting lesson at local bars.

It was the first time Leah Ellin and her sister Blair Ellin ventured to the bar for an art class.

“We’re laughing a lot, at each other, at our own paintings,” said Leah, 24. “You usually just go to a bar, and there is nothing special going on.”

Her sister Blair agreed: “Other than trivia nights or stuff like that, there is not that much, especially because we don’t have happy hour in Boston… Most activities are sports-oriented. There are not really lots of things to do that are creative.”

Metro asked around, and it seems others shared the sentiment.

“I think you’re living in a city, you want to go out, but there are only so many different things that you can do,” said paint instructor Lindsay Webber. “This gives you something you can take home with you and put on your wall.”

Rows of cautiously creative participants – some of them were with friends, a few were on dates – loosened up a bit after the booze started flowing, become more daring in their strokes.

“I think the novelty of it is appealing. It’s something new, something creative,” said Sean McGrail, general manager of Paint Nite and a self-proclaimed “chief bottle popper.”

“Our target market is people who haven’t painted since the seventh grade; or maybe the last time they painted was with their fingers,” McGrail said.

The idea of painting and drinking is nothing new, with storefronts across the U.S. opening their doors to thirsty artists, but McGrail thinks those places are missing the mark.

“They are in the suburbs. Our events are a bit more fun because people can have more than one cocktail. They tend to get a little bit tipsy,” McGrail said, adding that Paint Niters are encouraged to take public transportation. “We thought if we brought it to neighborhoods (in Boston), people could get drunk, stumble home, take the T, take a short cab ride.”

If you go:

  • Paint Nite tends to attract women between the ages of 21 and 35, according to its creator. The scene is usually 90 percent women, with between 25 and 30 participants showing up to paint.
  • The class can be anywhere from 90 minutes to two-and-a-half hours, and as time passes, so do the drinks, and so does that insecure feeling of being artistically challenged.
  • $45 covers the cost of the smock, the paint, the brushes, the instruction – everything except the cocktails. Most of the events start between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Two Paint Nites will be held Wed. August 29. One will be at 7 p.m. at Green Briar, and another at 7:30 p.m. at Friendly Toast. On Thursday, August 30 there will be a Paint Nite at 7 p.m. at Doyle’s Café
  • Since May, there have been between six and eight Paint Nites each week at local bars in Boston and Cambridge
  • Paint Nite is set to expand to New York City and Portland, ME in September


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