Is Kingston nightlife making a comeback? It sure looked that way this past Friday night. For those lamenting the city’s lack of a night scene, January 13, 2023 might be remembered as the day when our luck started turning.
Years ago, Uptown Kingston buzzed after-hours with hundreds of revelers bouncing between venues, bars and restaurants. But since the double-whammy of BSP being shut down and the pandemic, any local will tell you Uptown’s nightlife just hasn’t been the same. With a few exceptions, there might as well be tumbleweeds rolling down Wall Street once the sun sets.
Enter Midtown. A new hot spot opens here on Broadway every few months, and it seems we’re starting to reach the critical mass required to have the walking nightlife we’ve gone without for so long. Within just a few blocks, one was able to crawl between four very busy, energetic and unique nighttime experiences. To some locals, this is evidence that an evening scene is emerging, and Midtown is the new Uptown.
PAKT was one of the first hot spots to set up shop in the new wave of Midtown businesses. They have always served delicious food with a fierce attitude, and lately it seems special events and pop-ups are becoming their bread and butter. The place was positively packed (sorry) on Friday night with a “pop-up queer bar” watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Looking at their upcoming schedule, a resurgence is evident. This Friday and Saturday, Jan. 20 and 21, locally-turned-nationally famous chef Ric Orlando will be doing a tropical dinner pop-up. It’s exciting to see PAKT ascending, and doubly exciting to watch as it pioneers a cutting-edge business model.
In contrast, West Kill Supply is the new bar on the block, but it’s already a staple of local nightlife. The rustic Catskills-classy interior boasts dim, sexy lighting with severed and artfully taxidermied heads of dead animals staring at you from above. It’s hip without being pretentious, which is a delicate balance. The beer is quite good, the experience is no-frills and hyper-social – hover for a seat and claim vacancies quickly. It’s the perfect place to bring a date or a group as one stop on a Midtown crawl.
Tilda’s Kitchen has been historically sleepy as a nighttime destination, focused on community outreach and Ulster County Legislator Chris Hewitt’s alternative local currency “Hudson Valley Current”. That image was given an energetic update Friday as a high and merry crew danced the night away to bluegrass while scarfing down lovingly prepared cuisine from the kitchen. Hewitt’s fellow legislator Phil Erner was there getting down on the dance floor to a killer live zydeco band, washboard and all. Attending movers and shakers were already discussing how to capture the momentum of the night and channel it into further growth. The ambience here is pure love of community and togetherness, giving visitors a wholesome and radical vibe.
Last but not least, Tubby’s deserves perhaps the most credit for Midtown’s rise in nightlife. It was the finish line for many of Friday night’s revelers, as DJ Toltén spun atmosphere-enriching dub and exotica from the “booth” at the bar. In just a few years, Tubby’s has established itself not only as an anchor of culture and creativity in Kingston, but a destination that folks travel to from other states. The venue consistently books some of the best and most musically adventurous acts, supporting local musicians while bringing in some of the coolest artists from all over the country. Good drinks, good music, good people, intimate setting… what else could one ask for on a Friday night?
Perhaps it’s just the optimism brought on by drinking at multiple bars, but Midtown certainly looks to be cooking up a very exciting scene. If it can continue to build throughout the colder months, warmer weather may be the spark that ignites the kind of nightlife scene Kingston used to be famous for – full of creativity, accessible to all (regardless of credit limit), just wild enough, and connected in a shared sense of community.