Rough Draft Bar & Books offers alcoholic beverages, coffee, food and books in upstate New York
Located in Kingston, New York, approximately 90 miles north of Manhattan, Rough Draft Bar & Books is more than a bar. It is a hybrid, combining a bar, a café-bar, a snack bar, a bookstore and an event space.
That’s a lot, but it has attracted a loyal following to Kingston, a city of 23,000, which has attracted many ex-New Yorkers.
Generating multiple sources of income, beyond alcohol, can be a way for bars to thrive.
Its owners, Amanda and Anthony Stomoski, both 38, left Brooklyn in 2016, where Amanda was a freelance health and science writer and Anthony was an administrator at Brooklyn Latin School and moved to Kingston.
Previously they were waiters in restaurants and Anthony became a bartender at a local tavern to learn the ins and outs of the business.
The couple opened the Rough Draft Bar in November 2017. The space was a former Mexican restaurant, El Rodeo, among several establishments, but had been vacant for some time.
They were inspired by a similar establishment they had previously visited in Durham or Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which they remember named The Spotlight which offered coffee, sandwiches, second-hand books and had microphones open at night.
And why call it Rough Draft, which means unfinished? Amanda Stomoski replies that it was a literary reference and a pun on draft beer.
To open, they raised $ 150,000 through friends and family, supplemented by an SBA loan, to pay for the renovation, equipment and initial inventory.
Their original vision was a long bar that could seat 10 to a dozen people, where guests could also chat on a comfortable sofa or do their work, and where they could move tables to organize events. And that’s exactly what they built.
Initially, it could accommodate 40 guests inside, with two small benches outside to sit on. But when the pandemic hit and closed restaurants inside, it pivoted and created two dozen seats outside.
He kept his menu simple and straightforward. It serves beer, wine, cider, coffee, and savory pies from Down Under Bakery, a Brooklyn bakery, which patrons order for lunch.
Before the pandemic, his income was 40% coffee and food, 35% beer and wine, and 25% books and merchandise.
The pandemic has hurt alcohol sales, but revenues from coffee and books have skyrocketed. At the end of 2020, sales came from 40% books and merchandise, 40% coffee and food, and 20% alcohol.
Indoor seating is still not allowed, but they aim to bring it back in April.
The pandemic “hit hard,” noted Anthony Stomoski. “We closed briefly, then reopened gradually, starting with home delivery of books, beer and coffee.” At the end of the year, activity was down 20%, which the couple said managed to contain the losses.
During the pandemic, to generate income, he created an online ordering system, for home delivery of books, coffee beans and beer, to Woodstock, Rosendale, Kingston and Hurley, within a radius of about 20 minutes.
It functions as a full-service bookstore with several thousand titles for sale in the store. And he orders books for customers who can pick them up at Rough Draft or he provides local delivery for a small fee.
Most people who order books pick them up two or three days later. And Amanda said many customers are doing it to “support Main Street USA” and “too many people are ordering everything from Amazon.”
Ahead of the pandemic, it hosted a series of events, including trivia parties, live music, showcases by local authors, and book clubs. And it also hosts local brewery showcases, political roundtables, lectures, and movie screenings – you name it.
Amanda says their target audience is large, but includes young professionals, who now work from home and can stop for coffee, parents with their children, especially on weekends, community and political groups.
When a neighbor, Aaron Quint, set up a small oven in the back room of Rough Draft and started baking, it led to the establishment of a nearby business, Kingston Bread and Bar as co-owner. It serves pastries and drinks, which siphon off some business but not a substantial amount, Amanda said.
So when people want a bigger lunch at Rough Draft, they direct them to Kingston Bread and Bar for a sandwich.
Barbara Wild, a retired high school music teacher in Saugerties, NY, and current voice and piano coach, turned to Rough Draft before the pandemic to “browse, drink coffee and try to find a comfortable chair to read. ”
At the tables, she saw a multitude of professional or creative meetings taking place. “Collaborations,” she calls them.
She also orders books and has a loyalty card, which gives her a $ 5 discount on the tenth purchase. For her, it’s a place to hang out, meet friends or just keep reading.
Amanda said the keys to her future success are: 1) maintaining her welcoming atmosphere, 2) showcasing more local food and drink, 3) the excitement of people for the events, 4) maintaining its terrace after the disappearance of the pandemic.