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Crown Heights Loses a Vital, Community-Driven Hangout When Hunky Dory Closes

The restaurant and cocktail bar will serve its last drinks on October 31

Three cocktail sit behind the front window at Hunky Dory.
So long, Hunky Dory.
Megan Rainwater/Hunky Dory

Three years to the day after Claire Sprouse signed her lease at 747 Franklin Avenue, at Sterling Street, the Brooklyn restaurateur has announced that her neighborhood restaurant and cocktail bar will come to an end. Hunky Dory, a Crown Heights mainstay known for its pioneering no-tip policy and excellent breakfast sandwiches, will serve its last drinks on October 31, the restaurateur announced on Friday afternoon.

Keeping the restaurant going during the pandemic “has been both a marathon AND a sprint,” the restaurateur shared in a post announcing the restaurant’s closure. “It is frankly just not sustainable for myself and this small business to carry on, especially into a future full of so much uncertainty.”

Claire Sprouse, owner of Hunky Dory, sits in blue overalls besides a green-yellow cocktail on ice.
Claire Sprouse, owner of Hunky Dory.
Emily Arden Wells/Hunky Dory

In the post, Sprouse pointed the restaurant’s unrelenting first two years of business — defined, first, by 18-hour work days to get her business off the ground and, later, by endless pivoting during the pandemic — as a reason for closing. “Hours might get weird leading up to [the closure],” the restaurateur wrote. “But we will keep it goofy and fun right up until the very end.”

The Crown Heights restaurant temporarily closed after the onset of the pandemic, only to return a few months later with a revamped outdoor dining menu and no-tipping policy. In an interview with Eater, Sprouse said she arrived at the decision after noticing that her front-of-house staff were regularly making at least double the hourly pay of her kitchen staff on minimum wage. “I still believe that employees should be paid the same amount whether they are handing something over a counter or serving to a table,” she said at the time.

During the pandemic, the Crown Heights restaurant took its dining room outdoors, taking over a neighboring outdoor space that became a stage for comedy shows, dance parties, pop-up restaurants, mayoral campaigns, and more turmeric hot toddies than this reporter cares to admit. In November, Sprouse repurposed her indoor dining room as a general store and wine shop called Hunky Depot, a move also made by countless restaurants across the city. The store is slated to end its run this week ahead of the restaurant’s closure, according to the announcement.

Sprouse, a veteran of San Francisco’s cocktail scene, opened Hunky Dory in January 2019 with a focus on community and sustainability. In a review shortly after its opening, Eater critic Ryan Sutton applauded the laid-back hangout, calling it “insanely good and unconventionally beautiful.”

In March, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Sprouse planned to open a bar called Buddy in the California city’s Mission District. The bar, which has yet to open, lists an opening date of spring 2021 on its Instagram page. Eater has reached out to Sprouse for more information on the closure.

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