The hallway outside Studio 2 at Tacoma Arts Live was packed.

Participants had arranged themselves into tight-knit groups, covering every open space available. Laughter and excited voices bounced off the walls. Attendees could be seen eagerly leaning forward, trying to hear every word coming from the person across the circle they were standing in.

Between the drinks, bites, and lively conversation, it would be hard for anyone walking by to resist the temptation to join in the inaugural Grit City Professional Network Happy Hour.

The event on Oct. 17 offered a taste of what was in store for anyone interested in being a part of the networking group, which will officially launch in January 2020 with another happy hour and an exclusive tour of Tacoma’s Pantages Theater. The program was dreamt up and brought to life in a combined effort by Tacoma Arts Live’s Kristine Finch and Kyleigh Palmer, to provide opportunities for young professionals in the Tacoma area to network and grow professionally.

“We looked at what we do at Tacoma Arts Live and we thought… we have this really great preforming arts scene in Tacoma, and we have a growing young population of people who are coming here to live and to work. How can we link the two?” Palmer said, as she explained the formation of the idea for Grit City Professional Network.

Anyone living in the Tacoma area, between the ages of 25 and 45, is welcome to join. The registration cost is $11.50 per month. Membership perks include networking happy hour events every six weeks, opportunities to learn from business leaders in the community, tickets to Tacoma Arts Live’s Professional Regional Theater Group shows, behind-the-scenes experiences in Tacoma’s historic theater district, and savings on Tacoma Arts Live events.

Networking sessions through the group will look a lot like the first happy hour at Studio 2. The happy hours will occur at different locations throughout Tacoma, and the first drink will always be free. While sipping on that free beverage, members can mingle and network with local business leaders, prominent community members, and more. The event could include an educational component or — as was the case during the first happy hour — attendees can take part in a discounted group event, like free tickets to a show.

And for those nervous about getting involved in a stuffy, intimidating professional club — rest assured, you won’t find any of that here. The atmosphere will always be kept casual, light-hearted, and engaging, Finch said.

After almost two hours of nonstop, excited conversations in the hallway of Studio 2 at Tacoma Arts Live, Palmer and Finch thanked everyone for coming and announced that the happy hour was coming to a close. But the night wasn’t over. They encouraged everyone to, if they hadn’t already done so, claim their free ticket to that night’s performance of Shakespeare in Love at Theater on the Square. Those heading home grabbed their Tacoma Arts Live complimentary cup, exchanged business cards or numbers with those around them, and said goodbye to their exciting new connections. Everyone staying continued happily chatting away as they filed into the theater for the first of many great experiences in store for them through the Grit City Professionals Network.

For more information, and to register, visit their webpage.