Next Stop Chinatown


It was at an IHOP, late one night after drinking, that the initial inspiration to create The Pancakes & Booze Art Show first struck founder Tom Kirlin. Kirlin, who was in college at the time, often ended nights out at IHOP. While he enjoyed the pancakes, he always found that the experience was notably lacking one thing: alcohol. So years later, when he was looking to host an art show, adding that combination seemed natural.

In addition to drinks and free pancakes, The Pancakes & Booze Art Show also features music, art and body painting, as seen here PHOTOS COURTESY PANCAKES & BOOZE

In addition to drinks and free pancakes, The Pancakes & Booze Art Show also features music, art and body painting, as seen here

After working as a cameraman in LA for about a decade — he worked on music videos (including one by The Foo Fighters), commercials, a string of independent films, and had a stint with National Geographic — he hosted the first Pancakes & Booze event out of his LA warehouse in 2009. The show has since traveled to more than 20 cities across the country — everywhere from Portland, Oregon, to New York City — as well as Canada, and it recently hosted its first European shows.

And on Oct. 17, Kirlin brings the event to Honolulu for the first time, where it runs at The ARTS at Marks Garage from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

At each stop, Kirlin partners with artists that are local to the area, and the Honolulu show will feature work from about 50 Hawaii-based artists — along with music and, of course, drinks and free pancakes. While there’s un-doubted appeal to the titular concept in and of itself — as Kirlin has found, alcohol and free pancakes really draw in a crowd — the crux of Pancakes & Booze is its work with local artists. The event provides a stage for emerging artists to showcase their work as a way to help bolster their careers.

Eventually, Kirlin’s goal is to take the event global, with a Pancakes & Booze Art Show in every major city. And if things go well here, he hopes to return to build up the Honolulu iteration with return visits.

Metro caught up with Kirlin recently during the brief time he was back home in California — he had just wrapped his European shows and was preparing to head to Seattle for the next event.

Metro: How did Pancakes & Booze get started?

Kirlin: It’s kind of a crazy story. I live in Los Angeles, and I used to work in TV, and I was just kind of looking for a way to get out of the business. It’s a cutthroat business. It just wasn’t my scene, and I was looking to start my own business and work for myself. I decided I was going to open up a small film and photo studio for music video shoots and photo shoots. But the business was not really doing too well, and I was trying to find ways to utilize this warehouse space that I had. And that is why I started throwing these Pancakes & Booze Art Shows. And they kind of took off here in LA, and I started doing them in different cities.

Why pancakes and booze? How did you decide on this particular combo?

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and then went to college there as well. And the only place that was open 24 hours after a night of drinking was IHOP, so I always had this idea in college where one day I would open up a pancakes and booze restaurant, because I always wished that IHOP served alcohol. It was just kind of a silly college restaurant idea that I never really did anything with. And then when I started doing these art shows, I needed to think of a way to entice people to come to the event. I wanted to give them something for free, and I was like, “Well, pancakes are inexpensive to make, so why don’t I take my old restaurant idea and just kind of toss it into the art show?”

A previous Pancakes & Booze show in New Orleans

A previous Pancakes & Booze show in New Orleans

The event has gone from your warehouse to being held in numerous cities — and now worldwide. How did you go about building it up?

When I first started it, it was out of my 1,000-square foot warehouse space, and I would do it once a month. It was basically in the ghetto of LA. At first, the police would drive by, and they would actually be like, “This is kind of cool.” But then it became this thing where hundreds and hundreds of people were coming, and we couldn’t get them in the building anymore.

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And (the police) finally came up to me at one show and were like, “You can’t do this anymore; there are fire code issues.” That was when I was like, OK, I have to … make sure I have all the right permits and all that stuff. So once I went through the trouble of learning how to do all that, I thought, shoot, if I can do it in LA, then I can do it any city.

I have some family in Nashville, Tennessee, and I decided to do the next show outside of LA (there), and it worked. I just kind of slowly started adding venues in different cities. I just recently got back from Europe, and we did two shows in Europe.

It seems the show is successful no matter where you go. Why do you think that is — what do you think is the appeal?

I think from a patron standpoint … they can go and enjoy some art. It’s not your typical art show — it’s not like a wine-and-cheese crowd type of atmosphere. It’s a young crowd, there is live music, free food, body painting. There are also different things going on that make it more of a — I don’t want to call it a party — but it’s definitely way less pretentious than a typical gallery show.

And from an artist standpoint, all of our artists are up-and-comers, and a lot of them have never even showcased their artwork before, so it’s exciting for them to have a place to showcase their work.

Steve Kriozerel making pancakes

Steve Kriozerel making pancakes

How do you connect with local artists when you come into a new city?

It’s all just word-of-mouth, grassroots. We start just by emailing people, doing a lot of research online and finding some local artists. And then once we get one person, we ask them if (they) have any other artists that would be good for the event. And then they give us a couple leads and it just kind of snowballs from there. And then after the word spreads a little bit, people go online and submit their artwork.

Why did you choose Honolulu as your next location?

It’s the first time — I’m excited. I have only been there two times in my life, both times on vacation, but I was always impressed by the city … and I know there is a population of artists there. So I thought, why not bring this out there and give people one more chance to showcase their stuff?

Why is helping emerging artists something that you wanted to incorporate into Pancakes & Booze? Why is that important to you?

When I first started doing this, I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just kind of got some artist friends together. I learned from my friends about how difficult it is to get into galleries and just kind of figured out that there was a void to be filled. Young artists coming up shouldn’t be discouraged to showcase their work — they should be encouraged.




Illustration by Pseudo Manitou


The Pancakes & Booze Art Show runs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at The ARTS at Marks Garage, featuring work by local artists. There also will be music provided by local DJs, who have yet to be announced.

Cost is $5. Attendees must be 21 and over. Pancakes & Booze also is partnering with Zombie Crawl Hawaii, which takes place at various venues throughout Chinatown. Those with Zombie Crawl wristbands will admitted to Pancakes & Booze for free.

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