Bourbon & Brews, a craft beer and bourbon bar, always embraces the spirit of giving.
Since its opening in August 2019, the Merrick eatery has been consistently charitable. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Bourbon & Brews’ owner, John Amaruso, made it a mission to give back to fellow businesses that had delayed openings or lost customers. The bar began hosting Fundraiser Saturdays, which were immensely popular — 20 percent of all proceeds benefited organizations in the area.
Now, three years later, Bourbon & Brews’ charitable ways continue. Last Sunday, it hosted its second comedy charity night, featuring a new host and three Long Island comedians, Mike Keegan, Joe Mahoney and Steve Rocco Parillo.
Amaruso is a Merrick native who grew up just blocks from Bourbon & Brews, which is on Merrick Avenue. It’s a former dive bar — that his parents owned when he was young — and, he said, acquiring the establishment was a “full-circle story.”
“I think it’s important for anyone who’s in the position to give back to do so,” Amaruso said. “I owe it to the staff and the people around me.”
Last July, the establishment hosted its first charity comedy night to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. One of Bourbon & Brews’ bartenders, Adam Parsons, who took part in the comedy night last year, has a 3-year-old son fighting a brain tumor. St. Jude’s, Parsons told the Herald, saved his son’s life.
This weekend’s event will again benefit St. Jude’s. The $20 charge at the door will cover a drink and a donation. Since last year, Bourbon & Brews has raised over $1,000 for the hospital.
The brains behind the comedy night, Amaruso said, is its host, Travis Grant. A comedian himself, he did standup at last summer’s event, and returns this weekend to bring a different persona to the stage.
“He’s the one who pretty much set this whole thing up,” Amaruso said. “He’s the guy who found all the comedians. We’re trying to making this kind of like a seasonal thing — once a season, you know, he’s going to get different comedians. Mostly locals — bring them in, do a fundraiser, and just have a good night with some good laughs and some new talent.”
Grant, who’s also from Merrick, grew up and went to high school with Amaruso. He’s worked in comedy for the past nine years, and said they were always talking about hosting a show at Bourbon & Brews.
“One day, we were just, like, let’s stop talking about it and just make it happen,” Grant recounted.
Moving forward, he said, they’d like to do a show every three months or so, with a rotation of seasoned professional comedians. Grant, a feature act at comedy clubs on Long Island and in the city, said that this weekend’s performers are friends of his with the same experience.
“All my friends are feature acts, too,” he explained. “I wanted to put together 20 minutes of strong material that would be a serious show.”
Hosting a show has been a dream, Grant said, but finding the right venue was always the problem. Amaruso is a great business owner, he said, and they work well together.
“I want this show to be as good as possible talent-wise, and run as smooth as possible,” Grant said. “The main thing is that I want everyone to have an absolutely good time. Merrick’s a little town with not a lot that goes on all the time, and I want to bring something good and big to it.”
The show took place last Sunday at 7 p.m. Like last year’s event, the restaurant was rearranged to resemble a comedy venue — the bar seating was removed and the chairs were turned to face a makeshift stage.
Amaruso again emphasized how much Bourbon & Brews enjoys giving back, whether it’s to local charities or organizations, or to larger networks like St. Jude’s.
“It’s an honor — a privilege for us to be able to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s just something that I realized how important it was to people, and how happy it made people, and how happy it made me. In the end, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Bourbon & Brews is at 361 Merrick Ave. To reserve tickets ahead of time, call (516) 544-4797.