By Lauren Zumbach
Though several guests at Bottle & Bottega’s art party in suburban Glen Ellyn on a recent Tuesday night said they hadn’t painted since they were kids, it didn’t matter.
The night’s festivities were decidedly adult.
As local artists showed participants how to paint empty wine glasses with snowmen and holly, most sipped from full glasses close by.
“It’s more like a night out than a learning experience,” said Kara Dosen, of Wheaton, attending her second event at the studio to celebrate the holidays with friends Dawn Will and Theresa Field.
“Everything’s better with booze,” Field said.
Whether BYOB, “bring your own booze,”or with an in-house bar, “sip and paint” studio owners say art businesses that cater to adults have been spreading quickly in the Chicago area. Bottle & Bottega claims to have had the first location in Chicago, which opened in 2009.
“You can always go to a restaurant or bar and have a drink, but it’s nice to have something different for a night out,” said Meg LeFaivre, owner of Bottle & Bottega’s suburban La Grange location.
Most of the studios focus on canvas painting, though some also let participants try glass painting, jewelry making and other crafts.
Studio owners said the vast majority of participants are novice artists, so classes and parties typically have step-by-step artist instruction. Studio owners said they also offer kid-friendly events and private parties, such as corporate events, birthdays and bachelorette parties.
A particularly popular option for the latter, and at monthly ladies’ nights, are painting parties with a nude male model, LeFaivre said.
“We’re not fine art, we’re fun art,” said Lynn Day, owner of Bottle & Bottega in Glen Ellyn. “People come here to be with friends and do something outside their comfort zone.”
Non-drinkers are welcome, too. Kathryn Almeda, owner of Art a la Carte in Orland Park, said BYOB includes any beverage of choice. But she also said being booze-friendly is key to attracting adults.
“BYOB is a way to get people in the door, but it’s also a way to get them to loosen up behind the canvas,” she said.
At a recent private girl’s night out and cookie exchange party at Art a la Carte, Amanda Stock, of Tinley Park, said she got the idea for the get-together after attending a similar event at a friend’s home.
As they prepared to start their paintings, small canvases featuring festive snowmen, Stock said being able to enjoy a glass with friends took away some of the beginning-artist nerves.
“You’re just a little more free-flowing with the paint,” she said.
“It’s helpful to have that glass of wine to say even though it’s not quite perfect, it doesn’t need to be,” said Olivia Benish, manager of Pinot’s Palette, a sip and paint studio in suburban Glenview. “A lot of people are really intimidated by painting, but leave at the end and feel so proud of what they created.”
BYOB regulations, which already vary suburb to suburb, are even less consistent when it comes to businesses other than bars and restaurants.
While both Evanston and Homer Glen have no written BYOB policy, Evanston allows it at both restaurants and Bottle & Bottega’s Evanston location, while Homer Glen wouldn’t permit it at any type of business, said Homer Glen Village Manager Cameron Davis.
Several studios said they had to introduce the concept to the municipalities they’d chosen, some of which responded with liquor licenses specifically for the art studio niche.
In Orland Park, Art a La Carte requested permission to host BYOB art parties and initially got a no from the village, Almeda said.
Orland Park officials liked the idea but needed time to figure out how to craft an ordinance limited to the kinds of businesses they wanted to attract, said village spokesman Joe La Margo.
Art a La Carte opened in February and hosted adult art parties at local bars and restaurants until the village created a new arts and entertainment studio BYOB license and granted the first to Art a la Carte in October.
Deerfield allows BYOB at restaurants but not other businesses. Instead, the village created a new liquor license that lets arts-and-crafts studio sell beer or wine by the glass, limited to one drink per person per hour and a maximum of two per day. They have a similar license for spas and salons, but none currently hold it, village officials said.
Donna Price, owner of Cre8 Workshop in Deerfield, which offers “Wine and Craft” classes as well as open studio hours and kids’ events, said the process of getting a license wasn’t as difficult as she expected but still took several months and wasn’t cheap. But she had no doubt it was worth it.
“When you talk to adults and mention there’s wine available, their eyes light up,” she said. “It’s the only way you’re going to get adults in here.”
Hap Proesel, owner of TipsyPaint in Glenview, said there’s at least one extra challenge: “Kids after sugar and adults after a couple glasses probably have about the same attention span.”
But he said he likes seeing adults move from intimidation to pride.
“Adults have years and years of being frightened at the idea of a blank canvas. So to go from that to showing it off and posting pictures online is really fun to see,” he said.