The Raven, longtime staple of New Hope’s LGBT community, will reopen this month.
The establishment shut down last year, but a former Raven employee recently took over its ownership.
Scott DeWitt, who served as a bartender and general manager at The Raven, signed a lease-purchase to resurrect the LGBT hotspot, which has been closed since last spring.
“I worked here for 14 years and, after it closed, I kept in touch with a lot of people who also worked here, and I just decided to come back and try to save it,” DeWitt said.
The Raven originally opened in 1979; Rand Skolnick and Terrance Meck bought the business, which houses a restaurant, bar and hotel, in 2004. The owners, who also opened the nearby Nevermore Hotel last year, stepped down last May, and Skolnick passed away in July.
The building, on 385 W. Bridge St., has been vacant since.
DeWitt said he currently has about 30 employees, many of whom had worked at The Raven for years.
He said that while he will put a slightly new spin on The Raven’s decoration and offerings, he also wants to honor the history of the place that has attracted LGBT and ally visitors from across the country for the past three decades.
“We want to keep the traditional part of The Raven and bring back a lot of the antique stuff,” he said. “It will be a little bit more on the modern side in some ways, but we do want to reinstate a lot of how it always looked.”
The Nevermore, which also caters to a predominantly LGBT crowd and offers hotel accommodations, a restaurant, bar and cabaret lounge, is less than a mile from The Raven.
DeWitt said he doesn’t expect the close proximity of the two businesses to hinder The Raven’s success, but rather that he anticipates working together to offer LGBT visitors an array of dining, nightlife and accommodation options.
“We’re going to work with them the best we can,” he said. “We need both of these places for New Hope to be a real destination for LGBT travelers. Yes, we’ll have this competition where we do our thing and they do their thing, but we’re both going to be offering different things to visitors, so we’re not rivals by any means.”
Daniel Brooks, president of New Hope Celebrates, which runs the town’s annual Pride festivities, said The Raven’s closing was a “giant loss for the community” and that New Hope residents and visitors alike are anxiously awaiting the reopening.
“I run a bed and breakfast directly behind The Raven, and I’ve been directly affected by the announcement that they’re reopening; recently an entire group booked the Fourth of July weekend with me based on the fact that The Raven was reopening. People are saying, ‘Oh, they’re reopening? Well, then we’ll definitely be back,’” Brooks said. “It’s kind of like bringing the flock back home again. Even though we have so many attractions in New Hope that are GLBT-oriented, so many people in Philadelphia and New York might not come without The Raven being open. So it’s very, very exciting for everyone that it’s reopening.”
DeWitt said he’s waiting for the finalization of one more license before The Raven can officially reopen its doors, and he’s working to get this accomplished by this weekend’s New Hope Celebrates Pride.