New management brings changes to PAC Club
Change is in the air at the Portuguese American Citizens Club, according to Joe Pokraka, the club’s new manager. Starting Memorial Day, diners will see a bigger menu with extras like cookouts and family specials, new seafood dishes, and more comfort food, he said.
The pub kitchen will stay open seven days a week and the emphasis will be on freshness.
“We’re trying to do something more family oriented,” he said. Pokraka mentioned Friday night cookouts that go alongside the Jamestown Cruise and Bike Night that takes place in the PAC Club parking lot each week. The event, which began on May 6, has 50-50 raffles, music and food. Also, awards are given for the best car and bike of the night. Last week, three spanking new Mustangs stole the show, but any model and any year car is allowed, Pokraka said.
Over the winter, PAC Club President Joseph Medeiros brought in Pokraka’s company to run the rental hall and the pub, which are both located on 138 Narragansett Ave.
“He is managing the club for the Holy Ghost Society,” Medeiros said.
The new management company’s name – JST Management, Inc. – comes from the first initial of the Pokraka’s first names: Joe, wife Sabra, and their 10-year-old son, Tyler. They officially took over the club on March 1.
The change was made because the PAC Club was not making any money, according to Manny Dutra, member of the Holy Ghost Society. So far, the new ideas seem to be catching on.
“He seems to be doing good,” Dutra said. “His food is good.”
“I know we can make it work,” Pokraka said. “I’m 100 percent confident because my wife and I are always here and we care about the customers.”
The couple has experience managing restaurants on Block Island, he said, and they see similarities to tourism and business in Jamestown.
“We plan a lot of new additions.” The chefs will continue the prime rib and many other popular entries. But the club will offer a special every weeknight, with emphasis on home-cooked favorites, like American chop suey. Also, the PAC Club will feature fish and chips on Friday and Saturday nights.
Other coming changes include live music and Sunday afternoon steak fries.
“You grill your own steak, served with a baked potato and corn on the cob,” he said.
Pokraka is still booking musicians, he said, so he does not have a list of the performers yet. He leans toward rhythm and blues players and acoustical oneman bands, he said, to give the pub a “mellow” atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights.
Meg Hovanesian and John Kaiser are staying on as the chefs.
“I kept all the original help,” Pokraka said, so the regulars can depend on seeing all of the familiar faces at the pub. “We want to keep people working.”
The prices are going to stay affordable, he said, so families can afford a night out with the children. According to Pokraka, a family of four could have dinner for $50 to $60 at the PAC Club and most of the menu is priced under $10.
The club’s occupancy is 95. About 30 people can be served outdoors, he said. The rental hall is used mostly for events: “Weddings, and unfortunately, a lot of funerals,” he added. He also plans to upgrade inside the rental hall, he said, such as fresh paint, new curtains and a new bar. The existing one is very plain and he wants to add trim and paneling.
Pokraka said he has invested money in the business but declined to specify the amount.
He has leased the club for three years, Dutra said.
Dutra said the club does have some debt, but the amount is not substantial.
The 41,000-square-foot building still belongs to the Holy Ghost Society, according to Jamestown property records. Vision Appraisal values the club, which was constructed in 1928, at $438,800.
Pokraka, now of West Kingston, hopes to move to Jamestown soon.