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The owners of San Antonio music venue Picks Bar are partners in both business and life 

click to enlarge The saucy neon sign in Picks Bar's ladies' restroom is inspired by co-owner Amber Hernandez's love of Halsey. - COURTESY OF PICKS BAR
  • Courtesy of PIcks Bar
  • The saucy neon sign in Picks Bar's ladies' restroom is inspired by co-owner Amber Hernandez's love of Halsey.
Names: Jessica Marinez and Amber Hernandez
Job: Co-owners of Picks Bar and The Amp Room
Birthplace: Marinez in Corpus Christi; Hernandez in El Paso
Years in the Industry: 25-plus years, collectively
Impact: The pair offer unique experiences to music lovers of SA, from live band karaoke to mobile party wagons.
Money Quote: “I think we radiate this positive aura together like we can do anything — and that’s because we genuinely believe that much in each other.”

Between the renovation of their North Side nightspot Picks Bar, the launch of booze-peddling party busses, the purchase of The Amp Room and their recent engagement, it’s difficult to believe Picks Bar co-owners Jessica Marinez and Amber Hernandez have any time to sit with a reporter. Luckily, the live music maestras squeezed in a chat about their approach to bringing fun and funky experiences to San Antonio. They also shared their outlook on being in business with a romantic partner.

You’ve had a busy year! What would you consider your biggest milestones since purchasing Picks Bar?

Marinez: You mean, other than surviving COVID? We were lucky enough to get one last trip to Nashville, New York and Chicago last February. We immediately used ideas from our travels and renovated the bus we purchased in 2019 and made it a full-on cocktail bus. Then came the opportunity to buy the Amp Room. … That took a bit of time, but we finally sealed the deal in October. [That was] another huge milestone … but we have worked incredibly hard and been very smart with our finances and these are the results. 

Tell us about the saucy neon in the Picks ladies’ room. What was the inspiration behind that?

Marinez: Amber loves her some Halsey. So naturally, when Halsey’s newest album was released, Amber … mentioned that she sang a tune that goes, “Your pussy is a wonderland,” and I thought it was the best thing. We joked about putting that lyric on a neon, but we needed a piece for the restroom, anyway — so then, we actually started considering it. Then we got with Viva Neon Signs, and once we saw the rendering, we couldn’t go back. My mom wasn’t too happy, but we love it and so do most of our customers.

Hernandez: I think it is a bit of a controversial piece. When we were just joking about putting it on a neon I thought, “Why not?” I mean, the lyric makes me feel empowered as a woman.  

You’ve been hard at work remodeling St. Mary’s Street staple The Amp Room. How has the public reacted so far to the changes you’ve made?

Marinez: Well, we read the [social media] comments, and for the most part, they were amazing and congratulatory. Others, however, were just plain rude. Most of the rude comments were people insinuating that we were going to make Amp look and feel like Picks by booking the same bands, etc. We’ve lost quite a bit of followers, but we’ve also gained new followers with the small changes we’ve been making. I just hope everyone enjoys the space once we are done with it later this year. We have some fun plans. 

What is the best thing about working alongside your fiancée?

Marinez: This probably sounds like a joke, but I mean it wholeheartedly: I could spend all day with her if she would let me. She won’t; I’ve tried. We’ve been together four years and we’ve accomplished so much. … I never intended to stay in the service industry, but when we met, everything just came together and what goals we had changed completely — but for the better.

Hernandez: Even through really tough times, I know we will make it, because when I need her to be strong for me, she is. When she needs me to be strong, I am. I think we radiate this positive aura together like we can do anything — and that’s because we genuinely believe that much in each other.

Any words of wisdom for folks looking to start a business with their significant other?

Marinez: Sometimes it is hard knowing whether we’re having an issue over the relationship itself or work. It gets confusing. Just communicate. Always be honest even when it involves the smallest thing. That is huge.

Hernandez: Be willing to put in the work. Everything becomes a balancing act. Work and home life become one, and it gets hard to see your partner as your partner and not just your business partner. Making time for each other is important, as well as communicating with them when you need some extra love on those long days. Sometimes Jess calls me and says, “Can I just talk to my fiancée?” That’s my sign to turn off business and just listen.

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.

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