Since opening this past December, Pianist Envy – Jersey City’s first LGBTQ piano bar/restaurant – is well on the way to becoming both a destination spot and neighborhood institution. This isn’t surprising as owner/visionary Michael Billy is a longtime leader and advocate for the community. So when the opportunity to create something new at 100 York St. was presented to him, everything quickly fell into place; “Piano bars have historically been a place for our community to come together when facing our biggest challenges in our fight for our human rights. They have also been a place for us to rejoice. What better way to honor and celebrate our LGBTQ community here in JC and our community of artists?”
Pianist Envy is open 7 nights a week, with live musical performances beginning at 8:00 pm. Resident pianist (and former JC resident) Michael McAssey, a long-time friend of Billy’s, is a winner and three-time nominee of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets Award for best male vocalist. Other veterans of the New York City cabaret scene round out the cast of singing waiters and staff, alongside up and coming singers from Jersey City and other parts of Hudson County. “It was very important to me,” says Billy, “to hire local performers who are part of this community. That is part of what makes this so special. The mix of seasoned and new performers all truly work together as a cast.” What also separates Pianist Envy from the NYC cabaret scene is that Pianist Envy is invested in creating a truly local audience. That said, this is no casual open mic night, performance-wise; “Michael is a not just a pianist, he truly commands the stage and puts on a show.”
We had to ask – the restaurant business is a notoriously difficult one, so what prompted Billy to take the plunge? “It’s a surprise to me as well,” he explains. “I never thought I would own a restaurant or bar. It was the community aspect that drew me in. And the response has been, well, amazing. This past Saturday night alone – we had everyone singing along and you have people meeting for the first time and then people from the community reconnecting who haven’t seen each other in years. I had the opportunity to meet two men, this wonderful older couple who explained how grateful they were to have this in Jersey City as it’s too much for them to go into the City anymore.” Side note: we were at Pianist Envy that night, and the love in the room was as described. One of the most fun nights in our recent memory!
On to food and drink. The gastro-pub menu, created in concert with neighboring Buddy Who’s (Billy is a partner in their umbrella Elene restaurant group) includes vegan and vegetarian options. The fun list of libations includes thoughtfully created mocktails for the non-drinkers in your group.
When planning your visit to Pianist Envy, keep in mind that weekends tend to be packed and as such a super festive affair. Weekdays are typically quieter and the chance to hear some more experimental musical performances. Sunday’s “Musicals and Margaritas” theme night is the chance for you to spontaneously hit the mic, if you are feeling so bold. Monday nights are designed to give local aspiring performers an opportunity to more formally showcase their talents. If that’s you, the process begins with sending an email with your headshot and up to 3 music selections to email@example.com. Also please note, reservations are strongly recommended each night of the week.
Thanks to Michael Billy and your talented team for bringing Pianist Envy to JC!
100 York St., 201-333-4374.