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Deep Cove’s iconic The Raven Pub set for Irish makeover

The new tenant, which operates a number of Irish pubs in Vancouver, says much of the community staple will stay the same

One of the North Shore’s most iconic watering holes is turning Irish.

At the end of this month, the tenants that have been operating The Raven Pub in Deep Cove are leaving the property.

Moving in is a company that’s been sprucing up a number of bars across Vancouver.

Speaking to the North Shore News, IRL Group president and CEO William Donnellan said that while his team is going to make some needed repairs, much of The Raven will remain intact.

He’ll even keep the name, if negotiations with the outgoing tenant go well. If not, “Maybe we could call it The Raven Irish Bar, or something like that.”

“Our model is Irish pubs, but we're not going to change too much there,” he said. “We’re very familiar with Deep Cove and The Raven – we have lots of friends living in that area. We just want to come in, do some renovations, start operating and give people what they deserve.

“I know there's a lot of people who are worried that The Raven will be no longer, but that's definitely not the case. We've signed a lease, and we're there for the long haul.”

IRL Group operates Donnellan’s Irish Pub in Downtown Vancouver and Smith’s Irish Pub in Gastown, among others.

The Raven has a storied history in the community, dating back to 1946 as the Amble Inn, and has been open under its current name since 1979.

In 2018, the Crawford family sold the lot to Darwin Properties, with The Raven under lease and management by Gibbons Group. Then, last August, the property was bought by an investor.

Real estate agent Matt Thomas, who listed the property, said he and the landlord had been trying to keep The Raven in place.

But Thomas explained that the building has fallen into disrepair. In order to do some necessary fixes, which includes some major roof work, the landlord needed Gibbons to extend the lease.

Despite offering them the exact same rent they’d been paying, “They just wouldn’t respond,” he said.

Now, with IRL Group taking over, “I hope it stays the same,” Thomas added.

At the end of the month, the pub will close down for a while for repairs and renovations.

“I think because of COVID, and just everything that's happened over the last few years, The Raven stopped being the place that everybody would go to,” Thomas said. “And this new operator wants to bring it back to glory and invest some money into this, upgrade the kitchen – just add some more lightness to the pub.”

In a statement Tuesday (June 14), Darwin and Gibbons said they received a lease termination at the beginning of the month, “after many years of stymied redevelopment efforts.”

Darwin CEO Oliver Webbe said he wishes his firm could have redeveloped the property to include a new Raven.

“However, without municipal support, we were unable to move forward with those plans,” he said. “We recognize The Raven is a long-standing community gathering place, and we did everything we could to keep the pub in the community.”

According to the note, Gibbons intends to open a new location under The Raven Pub name.

Will ‘The Crawl’ end at 'The Raven'?

If The Raven's name leaves its nest at 1052 Deep Cove Rd., only Queens Cross Pub would remain wholly intact from Spirit of the West’s classic North Shore drinking ditty “The Crawl”.

In a different timeline, The Raven might have been scratched from the lyrics at the start. The Deep Cove spot was the only bar to ever fire Spirit of the West, explained founding member Jay Knutson.

At the time, the group had released their first album and were beginning to tour more broadly. So they thought they should probably play the local pub down the street.

The band lined up a show, and brought a bunch of people out to see them. But at the end of the second set, the manager came to speak to them.

“He said, ‘Do you know anything that's contemporary? Our patrons like top 40 sort of stuff. Do you know anything by the Eagles or Bob Seger?’” Knutson recalled.

“We kind of kind of laughed, and said, ‘Well, no, this is sort of what we do.’ And he said, ‘Well, they're not really into folk music here.’ And so basically – he was very kind – but he said it wasn’t going to work out, and he let us go after the first night.”

Unsurprisingly, the song became a North Shore favourite. At one point there were even tour buses that would do the crawl “from the Troller to the Raven.” Knutson said that eventually that manager came over one night and bought them all a beer.

Noting the numerous additions of drinking establishments over the years, he said any crawl today would require far greater intestinal fortitude.

While you could still trace similar steps listed in the song, there’s room for debate over what would still count on an official checklist today. The Queens Cross, which was new at the time, is largely the same.

Any other remainders are less clear. The once Rusty Gull has been simplified to The Gull. What’s called the Troller Ale House today is in a different building than the original.

The Squarerigger Pub, as many people had known it, shut down in 2020. But an establishment of the same name has opened at the location, renovated as a “modern sports bar.”

“It’s the end of an era,” Knutson said.

Writing and rehearsing the songs in Deep Cove, The Raven was the local for Spirit of the West. “It's a little tough, sentimentally, to see it go down,” he said. “But understandably, that whole block needed to have something done to it. And that's what they're doing.”

Knutson just hopes that whatever goes up in that spot maintains its place in the Deep Cove culture.

A previous version of this article stated that an earlier agreement stipulated that the current tenant agreed to keep The Raven in place. Matt Thomas corrected his statement, saying that no such agreement existed.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Darwin Properties and Gibbons Group.