The Crawford family spent years cultivating the Raven Pub as a “third place” for Deep Cove residents – it’s not home and it’s not work, but an alternate space for residents from Deep Cove and the surrounding community to spend time with family and friends and celebrate life’s milestones.
The pub has been an institution in Deep Cove since it was built in 1946 on Deep Cove Road, first as the Amble Inn, a café, then as the Spanish Inn, a steak and lobster house, and now as the Raven Pub – it has survived several owners, many renovations and some questionable colour changes.
The Raven is undergoing another seismic shift as the Crawfords, who owned it for 18 years, have handed the keys over to Darwin Properties, who own the property and adjacent lots, and the Gibbons Group that will manage the pub.
In 2000, Jennifer Crawford and her grown children wanted to launch a business where they could combine their collective talents, and that’s when they bought the Raven Pub and started moulding it into what it was for 18 years under their ownership.
“My son wanted to find a business where we could pool all our talents, instead of going in five different directions,” Crawford explained. This included her daughters Justine and Eryn, her son Michael and her son-in-law Howie Price.
Darwin Properties, whose president, Oliver Webbe, lives in Deep Cove with his family, originally applied to redevelop the property with housing and a rebuilt Raven Pub on the corner. However, the application that was submitted in 2016 to the District of North Vancouver has since been withdrawn and the company is in the process of incorporating feedback it received from the community before it submits a new one, according to Dana Samis, vice-president of marketing and sales.
There is no concrete timeline on when a new application will be submitted, she added, and the focus now is to run the pub in the same way it’s been run under the Crawfords.
The Raven has served as the venue for wedding receptions, wakes, birthday parties, New Year’s Eve parties and other important occasions or just a get-together with friends, and its reputation for live music and music jams is legendary on the North Shore.
Spirit of the West was one of those bands that played regularly at the Raven, memories of which are immortalized in their song “The Crawl” about the “good old boys” from the North Shore who drank “from the Troller to the Raven with all stops in between.”
Other musical talent to play at the Raven Pub over the years included Adam Woodall, Mike Bertini, Las Divas, Keith Bennett, Dave’s Not Here and Wishbone, adding to the vibe at the community’s watering hole.
“I like it when the atmosphere builds up in the room, when there’s a good energy,” Crawford said about the vibe at the Raven.
The Raven’s operations include the pub, the beer and wine store and Raven Pizza, a takeout outlet. From 2008 to 2015, the Crawfords also ran a satellite pizzeria of Raven Pizza on Lonsdale (currently Lions Gate Pizza).
Creating the pizza takeout was something Crawford was especially proud of because she knows what it’s like to be scrambling for dinner for the family.
“I am that woman who is ordering there,” she said.
Some pubs can be rough around the edges but Crawford said she wanted the Raven to be family- and female-friendly – that included making a menu that catered to women as well as men and adding lighting so it felt safe. There was also zero tolerance of harassment of women.
“We don’t put up with any abusive behaviour from anybody,” she said just days before the ownership change. “It’s important because we serve the whole community – we are a community hub as opposed to a community pub.”
In 2015, the Raven Pub was at the forefront of allowing families into their pub with new provincial legislation allowing this to happen.
Customers at the Raven tend to be from Deep Cove, a tight-knit community that Crawford compares to the Gulf Islands in both atmosphere and natural surroundings.
Clara Bliss, a lifelong Cove resident, started working there in 1972 when it was known as the Spanish Inn, a steak and lobster house. She was first asked to work in the kitchen as well as the dish pit, but over the years, she did everything in the pub including tending the bar and working as the manager.
She remembers wonderful Halloween parties as well as the good entertainment and local talent that played there.
“The Raven was always a great place – we had great entertainment,” Bliss said, including Silverlode and other bands made up of local musicians. “We’d have lineups when they played.”
Bliss has many great memories from the pub in the Cove, which underwent several ownership changes over the years as well as renovations.
Some changes over the years were not welcomed, for example, when one owner put in pink upholstery and everyone called it the “pink palace.”
At times, working the bar, Bliss would call up parents of young people who arrived at the bar to check whether they were old enough to drink.
“A lot of kids were pissed off at me,” she said.
One of those kids she found trying to sneak into the pub is now North Van district Coun. Lisa Muri, whose family has been in the Cove since 1937. Muri was just 16 when she managed to slip into the pub on Halloween in full costume – but despite hiding in the corner, Bliss spotted her and marched over and said, “Miss Muri, out!” after which she and her friends scooted.
Later when she was of age, Muri would often drop by the pub on a Thursday after work and meet up with friends.
“That was the beginning of the weekend for us,” she said. The Raven, she added, was a place to “bring all generations together.” Often, she would be enjoying a beer with her friends’ grandparents.
Muri remembers when the interior was redone in pink – the outcry from the community was huge: meetings were held at Ron Andrews community centre, T-shirts were made and a petition was compiled to protest the colour scheme.
“We couldn’t see old-timers sitting on pink bar stools,” Muri said. “When we don’t like something (in Deep Cove), we let people know.”
The Raven Pub will reopen in early December under new ownership but with the same values and concept intact.
The new managing partner, the Gibbons Group, has landed on the tag line “your local living room” for the Raven Pub, which closely mirrors the Crawfords’ “third place” concept.
“We want it to be a place that you can come to at any point in the day, if you’ve had a good day or a bad day, you can come in and you’re going to know someone in the bar,” said Dean Eggleton, operations director with the Raven as well as other Gibbons properties.
“No matter what mood you come in, you’re leaving in a better mood after,” he added.
While they are updating the interior, Eggleton said they want to keep the same atmosphere at the pub.
“We don’t really want to change the concept at all – it’s worked well in the past here,” he said. “It’s that local neighbourhood pub with good, homely food and beers and nice cocktails and good atmosphere and live music.”
Since they got the keys in mid-November, the new owners have been doing some cosmetic renovations, such as new flooring and lighting.
The menu at the Raven Pub will be pared down – it currently has 86 items, and this will be cut in half, and in three to four months, management plans to introduce a new menu.
The Gibbons Group has also partnered with Deep Cove Brewers for five years, with Shae de Jaray, the brewer.
Crawford said it’s time to move on and leave the pub in the hands of someone else. But she said she’ll miss the community, the people, the businesses and organizations she’s gotten to know over the years. She said she also enjoyed working with young, upbeat staff and one of her favourite things about running a pub has been the ability to mentor up-and-coming employees and help them gain experience in their careers.
“I like to take someone who is keen to move up, who doesn’t have experience” and help them along in their career, she said. “I like to think they leave the Raven with more than they came with.” ■