To live—and dine—in Kingston over the past two years has been a dizzying experience, as businesses have opened and shut in the revolving door of the pandemic. It’s not just newer establishments, like Lunch Nightly, that have struggled with the economic landscape—staffing shortages, burnout, and skyrocketing food costs have affected even longtime institutions like the Anchor, Duo, and Boitson’s.
The latest restaurant owner to pivot in this string of changes is Eryn Stutts of Broadway brunch staple PAKT, which will host its last brunch service on Monday, August 8 before switching to full-time catering operations. “I didn't use the word ‘closed’ or ‘closing,’” Stutts says of her recent social media post announcing the end of onsite dining. “It’s such a difficult thing to explain. Lunch Nightly and the Anchor and a bunch of other places have tried to convey what I said at the beginning of the pandemic: The industry is done. None of us can go back to normal after pandemic life.”
Stutts and her team will continue to operate out of the kitchen at 608 Broadway, using it as a commissary for their own catering and food truck operations, alongside Juan Romero, owner of Lekker food truck and, previously, Duo Bistro. “Teamwork is the only way to survive,” Stutts says. “Well, teamwork or greed, but we choose teamwork.”
For almost seven years, PAKT has been a reliable destination for delicious, stick-to-your ribs Southern food. But beyond the reliably tasty fare, the spot was a community hub. As Jess Edelman of Repair Shop Kingston recently posted, "Pakt was a place for the community (specifically the Queer community) to be able to just be ourselves and feel safe, seen and heard. From Drag Race parties to karaoke night to Queersgiving we always had a safe place to go."
Every weekend, the corner eatery was filled with young families, couples, and garrulous groups of friends seated before bottomless mimosas and plates piled high with biscuits, ham, farm-fresh eggs, bacon, brisket, shrimp and grits, and chicken and waffles. And yet, it was never enough on it's own to keep the lights on. “Catering has always been our bread and butter. Midtown still doesn't have foot traffic, so we always survived off of that,” Stutts says. “Having the restaurant open was just for fun—there was no way to make money running it.”
Stutts will take advantage of this break in front-of-house operations to do some renovations on the kitchen. The dining room and a space upstairs have already been reserved for several upcoming private events and are available for future bookings.
“Our main thing right now is evolution—making sure we’re setting an example for keeping food systems intact and making food accessible,” says Stutts, who is unwilling to compromise on the quality of food or service, or to pay her employees less. With a full-tilt catering docket, two longtime staff members leaving the food service industry, and no time to find or train replacements, changing tacks was the most sustainable option for Stutts.
“Everyone is just trying to figure out in this new vein that we’re in, what do we do? We’ve always been fans of evolving over consistency, even down to our own recipes,” Stutts says. “It is the end of PAKT as it was, and the next iteration…we don’t know. But right now, it’s the biggest wedding season since 1984.”
PAKT will be open for its final brunch service Friday, August 5 through Monday, August 8, 10am to 3:30pm. Reservations are recommended.