Half a block from Union Square, a vertical red neon sign reading BAR and a handful of cheery, yellow tables out front quietly announce Park Bar. Here, behind the bar and beneath the massive arched mirror, Davina Thomasula and Megan Giometti met. Now, years later, they are opening their own bar, Goodnight Kenny, in Poughkeepsie.
“I worked at Park Bar for 15 years,” Thomasula says. “It’s such a neighborhood spot.” The small space, the regular customers, and the familiar, casual vibe inspired her to open something similar. In 2017, Thomasula moved upstate full time and, not long after, started her search. “I looked for over a year for the space,” she says. “I didn’t want something big. I wanted it to feel like a small, intimate neighborhood bar.”
Thomasula found what she was looking for at 27 Academy Street in Poughkeepsie, a city she had always found herself drawn to in her upstate explorations. “When I finally found it, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is it. This is where it has to be,’” she says. “I would’ve loved to purchase the building, but at the time, the cards didn’t line up.” But she did reach out to the owners, Amanda and Eric Baxter of Baxter Built, a real estate and development firm making big moves in Poughkeepsie, and found out they didn’t have any concrete plans for the space.
With the perfect space and Giometti on board as a partner, Thomasula signed a lease a month before the pandemic hit. Amid COVID delays, shortages, and shutdowns, the renovations the Baxters planned for the building, with its outdated plumbing and electric general disrepair, lagged. But things are on track now with plans for Goodnight Kenny to open late summer.
Eleanor Roosevelt Drank Here, You Can Too
The c. 1910 brick building has a history as a watering hole. Most recently, before a decades-long stint of vacancy, it was Slim’s Lounge, a neighborhood bar with a penchant for quirky self promotion. But its true glory days date back to the 1940s, when it was called The Ritz and, apparently, Eleanor Roosevelt was among its customers. (Her lady’s lair Val Kill Cottage is just down the road.)
“The building literally was so neglected when we got into the space, you could tell nothing had been touched for years,” Thomasula says. “It was just kind of frozen in time.” The bar base and counter itself had rotted out, but the original Art Deco bar back was salvageable—and serving up serious retro diner vibes. “We thought, ‘Let’s build a bar around this amazing piece, paint it, and restore it,” Thomasula says.
They painted the green bar back white to contrast with the rest of the dark interior. As far as the aesthetic for the rest of the space, Thomasula says, “We wanted it to be comfortable first of all.” Other design elements were inspired by the Midcentury style of the ’40s and ’50s. “That back bar piece was kind of the inspiration for the rest of the finishes in there,” she adds. The bar is long, seating 18 people, with five high-top tables, and a lush corner banquet beneath a disco ball because, well, why not?
“It's a very long bar, but the space is small,” says Thomasula. “I think that was really important because when you're sitting at a bar, the interaction is great. You can get to know people there, there’s a lot of face-to-face. We’ve all been remote and working from home, so I think it'll be really nice to get people back out sitting next to each other and having conversations.”
As far as what the bar will be serving: the classics. “Our cocktail program is pretty straightforward,” Thomasula says. “We’re bringing back a lot of the classics.” Plus wine, cider, bubbly, and a mix of local craft and domestic beers on draft. “It’s an aesthetic that’s difficult to explain,” Thomasula says. “It will feel really beautiful inside, but our vibes are really approachable—I wouldn't say divey but approachable. You know you can get a great cocktail there but also a Corona if you want.” On the food side, Goodnight Kenny will serve Detroit pizza by the slice from nearby Hudson & Packard and a small menu of bar snacks like pretzels that can be prepared in a convection oven.
The bar name—and the vibe generally—is an homage to Thomasula’s father, a retired musician in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. “My dad is always the life of the party, but he likes to take lots of naps and go to bed early, so we’re always saying, 'Goodnight Kenny!’” Thomasula says with a laugh. “So that’s how I got the name, using his personality and his dynamic in our family to inspire the feel of the bar. But I do think a bar, especially a neighborhood bar, does grow with the area and does create its own identity throughout the years, which is something I love.”