Tom Kirlin had the physical space—a warehouse in Los Angeles that he was renting. He just needed to figure out what to do with it and how to afford it.

Kirlin says, “I was just trying to think of what I could use the space for, and a lot of my friends were artists and wanted to exhibit their work. So I was like, ‘All right, let’s organize an art show.”

Just like that, The Pancakes & Booze Art Show took off, with founder Kirlin successfully getting together a bunch of artists in an LA warehouse for a good time and pancakes as a solution for how to make ends meet. 

He shares, “I was trying to find a way to pay my rent for the building. And so that’s when I was like, ‘What can I give people to justify charging them?’ At that time, it was five bucks to get into an art show. And that’s when I came up with the pancakes idea.”

Pancakes fit the bill as a cheap and easy-to-serve-to-a-large-crowd offering; plus, they were well received. The concept was a go, with attendees appreciating the food, beverages, art and vibe. 

Kirlin adds, “After doing the very first [show], I knew I had something special because of the reaction of the people that had attended. Everyone was just like, ‘This is so much fun! It’s such a good idea!’”  

That inaugural art exhibition was over 10 years ago, and Pancakes & Booze has since become a sought-after pop-up event. Kirlin and his team bring the fun to city venues nationwide, including the Mission District’s Public Works SF, where P&B shows are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.  

At P&B shows, local artists have the opportunity to showcase and sell their work. Whether emerging and new to the P&B art show scene or experienced and a P&B veteran, all are welcome.

Says Kirlin, “What makes the event special is that you have this really amazing mix of artists that support each other and this community that builds over time. It’s really pretty fun to be a part of.”

While the first P&B art show in LA featured 15 to 20 artists and 100 to 150 attendees, the headcount at P&B shows has expanded considerably, particularly in major cities like San Francisco. Now, a show featuring 150 to 200 artists with 1,000 to 2,000 patrons walking around a venue, plates of pancakes in hand, is the norm.

Gracey Ripa, a San Francisco muralist and fine art painter, has participated in a few Pancakes & Booze art shows in Denver. She describes them as “very upbeat.”

Gracey Ripa, who is participating in Pancakes & Booze Art Shows at Public Works SF, recently moved to San Francisco. She describes her art as vibrant, whimsical and focused on women’s empowerment and the divine feminine. (Courtesy Gracey Ripa)

“It’s not like a quiet type of art show—it’s definitely a louder art show than what you might get at a gallery,” Ripa says. 

This week’s event will be her first San Francisco P&B, as she only recently moved to the city. She plans to be there both days and is looking forward to it.

“There’s a lot going on and a lot to look at. There’s a lot of energy going on in there, and it’s typically a lot of fun,” she says. 

That liveliness is at the heart of each P&B show, with artists and art appreciators mingling, a DJ playing music, live body painting and pancakes aplenty.

As Kirlin says, “Come hungry.” 

Pancakes & Booze SF is at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 and 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at Public Works SF, 161 Erie St., San Francisco. Tickets are $10-$15 at  Artists interested in exhibiting their work at P&B Public Works SF shows, can find information here