Kat Dunn has a deep understanding of and appreciation for her industry, tallying more than two decades in bars and restaurants and gaining experience in every facet. Now, with help from an SBA 7(a) loan and Pursuit, she‘s created the ideal combination of comfort and cocktail-forward ambiance in her new bar, Hudson, NY’s Padrona.
Falling in love with the bar business
After graduating from college, Kat took a bartending job to fill time while she figured out her next step – which she took several years later when she accepted a “day job” that she disliked. When she got laid off, she returned to her beloved and familiar role of bartender, settling in for another long stint.
“There are so many things about this industry that make it a difficult place for most people to work – the hours are hard, you’ll rarely take vacation, and you’ll miss most holidays and family events. But if you’re a restaurant person at heart, like I am, then you know there’s nowhere you’d rather be working than in a bar or restaurant that you love,” she says.
She worked for some of the most progressive restaurateurs in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including Fatty Crab and its offshoots. So, when its chef and owner moved to Hudson, he asked Kat to come along to run the cocktail program at his new place – it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. That was in 2012, and she quickly fell for Hudson – the community, the geography, and the emerging bar and restaurant scene.
Embarking on a dream, then a delay
She needed financing to bring her dream to fruition, and when she approached her bank, Bank of Greene County, she was approved for a loan to build out the space and purchase the equipment and furnishings that she needed. That was on March 5, 2020 – and just about a week later, everything closed down due to the pandemic. Uncertain about the future, Kat and her bank agreed to walk back the loan indefinitely. Her dilemma, though, was that she still had the space under contract.
Kat says that her landlord offered to let her out of the lease, but she knew it was the perfect location and that she might not get it again. So, to get through the first years of the pandemic, she opened a seasonal New England-style takeout and catering venture there, called Buttercup, that she self-funded. It was an enormous success, providing her with much-needed income during the pandemic and proving that she could operate a successful and profitable venture – even in the most difficult circumstances.
The stage is set for Padrona – and funding through Pursuit
When restaurants finally reopened for dine-in operations, her bank representative introduced her to Pursuit.
Kat was impressed by how interested her Pursuit team was in learning about her vision for Padrona which, in addition to a world-class cocktail program, also offers a creative menu of small plates. “It means so much when a lender has confidence in your ability to create a profitable business,” she admits.
Soon, she was approved for an SBA 7(a) loan for working capital and funds to finish and furnish Padrona. SBA 7(a) loans offer financing from $50,000 to $5 million for projects of all kinds in nearly every industry.
Kat says her team helped her throughout the loan process and at the closing and she was thrilled when her team explained that with Pursuit, the most important thing is communication.
“It was so reassuring to hear that if I ran into issues, all I had to do was contact my team and they’d find ways to help. That was so unexpected to hear from a lender,” Kat says. “It’s indicative of the whole experience that I had with Pursuit – very supportive and positive.”
She received the loan in February 2022, finished the buildout over the following months and opened Padrona in September. Business has been busy since and it will only get better.
“Business has been great, exceeding projections, and I can already forecast that it should be a strong summer,” Kat says. She plans to double her staff, which would take Padrona from seven employees to about 15. “For now, I’m doing all the management roles myself, as well as spending a day behind the bar and a few days in the kitchen. More than anything, when it’s your own, you want to ensure that every detail is right.”
Pursuit has loans for nearly every industry – including restaurants and bars
“Working with Pursuit was such a great experience,” Kat says. “When I tell people that I got a loan for Padrona, they’re floored because in our industry, the belief has always been that it’s difficult to obtain financing for bars and restaurants. So, if you’re in need of financing, write up your business plan, get your ducks in a row as best you can, and talk to Pursuit.”