Uptown Grill passes into Kingston diner history

From left, owner Michele Koskie, waitresses Kim Bennett, Stephanie Downes and Lisa Van Oyan, and owner Tom Koskie. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

“You look good,” an old friend said to Tom Koskie.

“I looked so bad before?” replied Koskie.

The old friend was reacting to the news that Koskie and his business partner, Steve Oulouris, had decided to close the Uptown Grill diner after about four and a half years in business. The doors of the diner closed for the final time at two o’clock this past Sunday.  It had been open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch. 

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A Kingston banker for many years, Koskie and his wife Michele had been teased by their friend Oulouris, who also owns Michael’s Diner on Ulster Avenue, about the possibility of partnering with him on the diner on Schwenk Drive at the entrance to the Kingston Plaza. After considerable thought, the Koskies “decided to give it a whirl.” Oulouris renovated the 95-seat place and Koskie became its resident greeter and manager. Michele, who did much of the baking, was an everyday presence. 

For the former banker, business was all about relationships. Though he often cheerfully cleared tables and handled the cash register, Koskie mostly enjoyed welcoming customers and showing them to their tables. He was proud that the Uptown Grill, like its fictional counterpart in the Cheers sitcom television show, was the place “where everyone knew your name.”

Koskie wants his customers to know he will miss them. “Thank you for coming along for the ride with us and thank you most of all for your patronage and the friendships we made during our time at the Grill,” he wrote. 

The staff, which had worked at various local eateries for far longer than their boss had, usually exhibited a friendly professionalism. The regulars were known by name, and the customers and the help often seemed familiar with the outlines of each other’s personal lives. “We would like to express our gratitude to our awesome, loyal staff,” wrote Koskie. “We were able to count on you each and every day. We will miss you all.”

The site is part of the proposed Kingstonian project now just beginning the laborious process of getting city planning approval. The diner operators were unable to take over a lease that would have offered them greater security, so they decided this was an appropriate time for them to close the business. “We were not getting thrown out,” explained Koskie, “but we’re also getting older, too.”

After a period of rest, the partners will review their options. They haven’t ruled out a diner in another location, Koskie said.

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