You’ll hear it before you see the queue—the rumble of voices, peals of laughter, a steady thrum of deep bass underlying it all.
You know when you’re getting close: The noise gets louder, you can see the end of the line.
You spot familiar faces, hug, slap hands, whatever it is you do when you run into each other.
Cigarettes are lit; anticipation sets in.
It’s going to be a great time. Some bad decisions will likely be made. Someone’s definitely going to black out.
The line inches forward.
It’s 2 pm on a Monday.
If you’ve ever stood on the corner of Hampshire and Cambridge streets in Somerville on an afternoon like this, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Industry Brunch at Trina’s Starlite Lounge.
Monday brunch at Trina’s is a hallowed tradition for the restaurant industry. If you don’t work in a restaurant, I’m sure it sounds odd: brunch on Monday? But think about it.
Sunday is the busiest day for brunch, right? So when would all those people slinging bloody marys and mimosas get a day to meet en masse and have a boozy brunch?
You got it—Monday, the start of everybody else’s work week.
While the legend (and the often hazy memories) of Trina’s Industry Brunch precedes it, few know the origin story of this time-honored tradition: It has, for almost eight years, just been there—and been awesome.
But if the popularity of shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage teach us anything, it’s that the stories of the roots of superheroes are just as important and as interesting as the feats that they accomplish and the wrongs they right.
I sat down with Emma Hollander, co-owner and managing partner (and everyone’s favorite Monday brunch bartender) of Trina’s to demystify this local champion of restaurant staff’s beginnings and magical powers. Whether you’re a devout follower, a backsliding bruncher, or have never even heard of Trina’s, the story of how and why the best reason to never work a Monday came to be is a tale worth imbibing.
Trina’s opened in 2009 and launched Industry Brunch in early 2010, a few months after they opened.
“When we started, a lot of local restaurants were closed on Mondays,” Hollander said, “and we thought, ‘How cool would it be if we got a chance to let our friends, our peers, enjoy themselves?’”
How cool it is: If you work in (or have ever worked in) a restaurant, you know working brunch is soul-sucking. You have to come in earlier, sometimes much much earlier if your place is typically only open for dinner, often after working until the wee hours of the morning the night before, and then get smothered in a crush of 9-5ers who all woke up tired and hungover after putting people who work in restaurants through the wringer the night before.
Working Sunday brunch after working all weekend is one of the fastest ways to lose your cool (or your sanity, whichever you have left).
Basically, like Hollander told me, “Brunch is just the fucking worst.”
“We were really looking for something that is different, something for restaurant kids that was like, ‘Hey, you worked your ass off all weekend long, how about you get brunch for a change?’”
And it took off from there. Very, very quickly.
“Three years ago we all looked at each other and said, ‘Holy shit, we did it,’” Hollander said. “We just cleared Friday and Saturday night sales on a Monday brunch.”
Being in Trina’s on a Monday afternoon, it’s impossible to miss why Industry Brunch is such a mainstay. The food is great, the drinks are fantastic, the music is loud, and the shots just keep appearing. But most importantly, the atmosphere is seemingly impossible to match.
“I used to joke it was just my friends at the bar,” Hollander said. “I would sit on a cooler behind the bar and talk with everyone. We weren’t doing shit for sales. We probably lost money on it when we first started.”
“But there was a lot of love in the room,” she added. “Part of our success has been the amount of love that’s always been in this building.”
While there is no shortage of warm fuzzies floating around the bar, working Industry Brunch isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
“I think people underestimate how much pressure it is,” Hollander said. “I have a bunch of professionals at my bar, and I can feel the eyes on me. No one’s judging in a negative way, but that’s what we do.”
“On Monday brunch, everyone in that building is a VIP because we know them from somewhere. It’s intense. How do you not give away half your sales? How do you not do $1000 in comps?”
And what do you do when the 9-5 crowd crashes your party on a holiday Monday?
“I was annoyed at first, and then I thought maybe on holidays we’d do Tuesday brunch too so the restaurant kids get their day,” she said.
“But you know what? On holiday Mondays we have a line out the door, and you know what: good for them. Those 9-5ers look forward to a Monday holiday year-round so they can come here, so let’s give them that. Restaurant kids have every Monday.”
“It’s become such a big party no one really cares any more.”
By 6 pm, when folks start trickling in for dinner, Hollander says she’s constantly asked if the space is closed for a private event because the dancing and the Fernet-slinging just has not stopped.
“I’ve created this really weird monster, and I’m really excited about it, but we never thought it would be this.”
“It’s also become a thing for hairdressers,” she said, “and we have some guys who work construction who come in. It’s for a lot of people who work nontraditional schedules. We’re giving back to people who bust their asses all weekend long.”
“We all deserve to eat hot eggs not standing up in the dish pit.”
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.