by Steve Desroches
Jonathan Hawkins pulls into the Crown and Anchor courtyard in his powder blue Dodge Dakota convertible on a spring day, the kind with the first hints of summer in the air. He smiles at the many people zipping around the property—electricians, painters, carpenters, as well as several members of his staff—all working on the multi-venue hospitality complex to get it ready in time for the busy summer season. It’s been a wild ride since Hawkins and his partner Dr. Paolo Martini closed on the fabled Provincetown institution in December, a deal years in the making. Hawkins has a long list of changes, both in the immediate and near future, that he’s planning on implementing. He started in the Wave Bar with a maritime psychedelic wallpaper, nautically framed mirrors, and a glitter-infused dance floor that makes it look like New Year’s Eve at Studio 54 year-round. Just those design elements alone were a big hit letting patrons know that the Crown and Anchor is at the dawn of a new era.
“If you put a glitter floor in, they will come,” laughs Hawkins. “When I first saw it, I thought ‘Maybe this is a bit much!’ But now I love it.”
In this intense flurry of real estate changing hands in Provincetown there is a collective holding of breath with each closing as, in some cases, large properties are selling to blandly named corporate entities from out of town getting lost in a larger investment portfolio, stoking fears it will eventually lead to an erosion of community. It’s long been a hallmark of town that visitors and townspeople alike not only know who owns local businesses, but frequently interact with them. So, there was a sigh of relief when the Crown and Anchor was bought by two individuals, people who are well-known in the community. There are a handful of businesses that are central to Provincetown’s economy and culture, and the Crown and Anchor is certainly one of them. Hawkins realizes that and revels in the abundant opportunities to create something very special, as both a business person and an artist.
A native of Oregon, Hawkins grew up in a conservative evangelical family and community, and was groomed to be a Christian pop star. But after coming out as gay he pursued secular music and found success touring the world with Bravo Amici, one of the first “popera” groups to hit it big mixing classical opera and pop music. While working in the arts he also became a producer working to develop talents in a variety of genres. After first arriving in Provincetown in 2010, Hawkins knew that the Cape tip was a place he could expand on his artistic visions, in particular in supporting queer arts and artists, a valuable pursuit in a world that still keeps such viewpoints and performers on the margins. So, his vision isn’t just limited to the smooth operation of a complex home to a hotel, restaurant, nightclubs, bars, and entertainment venues, but also cultivating a hive of imagination and creativity as well as LGBTQ activism and representation.
“Let’s be bold,” says Hawkins.
“Let’s create shows that feel different. Let’s create entertainment that is representative of our community and
set these artists up for success.”
It’s about balancing tradition and innovation for Hawkins. He’s booked beloved performers like Varla Jean Merman, Dina Martina, and Thirsty Burlington, and brought Ryan Landry’s Showgirls back to the Paramount room. But he is also featuring the debut of solo shows by Mackenzie, Elle Emenopé, and João Santos. Installing new lighting and sounds systems, as well as a large video screen in the Paramount to add a high-tech element to shows is another innovation. And there are many other changes at the Crown, as is evident by the sound of banging hammers and buzzing saws this spring. The front second-floor room with the large balcony above the entrance has been removed from service as an accommodation and will be turned into “the library,” open to guests to enjoy as a gathering space and home to small concerts, book signings, and the like. He’s also using all the public spaces in the Crown as a queer art gallery, with the first show being the Ides of Gender by Zach Oren, featuring 52 portraits of transgender Americans in all 50 states and two territories. He’s hired popular chef Raina Stefani to take over the kitchen and he is also completely redoing the pool area, turning it into a beach club, with access to the actual beach with chaise lounges and umbrellas, open to all and not just guests of the hotel.
He’s also commissioned Provincetown artist Paul Rizzo to paint a rainbow mural that will go from the box office all the way around to the Vault, the Crown’s leather bar, which itself is getting a bit of sprucing up, but not so much as to change the vibe.
“We’re cleaning it up, but we’re not cleaning it up,” says Hawkins, with a smile and a tilt of the head.
As he and his team are on the precipice of their first summer, a baptism by fire…and glitter, Hawkins also reached out to other venues when planning so as not to duplicate events. If one venue is hosting an underwear party or drag night, he’ll plan something completely different so as not to compete, but rather compliment. The town is too small for such attitudes, and a rising tide lifts all boats approach works best as most visitors pay little attention to the minutiae of their trip to Provincetown, focusing more on the overall experience.
Walking through the Cabaret room, which is full of boxes and furniture and will be closed this summer, he laughs and says he has plans to return that room to a performance space, too. But one thing at a time. He doesn’t want to just get through the summer, but also for him and his staff to enjoy it. And to make sure patrons enjoy themselves, he’s hired queer hosts who will sashay about the Crown to see to it that everyone is having a good time and feels welcome. That’s what’s at the core, for Hawkins, making sure everyone feels welcome and at home.
“There’s no clearer understanding that you’re doing something right than having the community come out and give support,” says Hawkins. “Focusing on the community first will end up being financially successful and will help to build on that community support and energy.”
The Crown and Anchor is located at 247 Commercial St., Provincetown. For more information call 508.487.1430 or visit onlyatthecrown.com.