Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2018

The Torch is Passed to a New Generation at John and Peter’s in New Hope

New John & Peter’s owners Kevin Rauch, Mike Wieners and Chris Williams.

When John Larsen and Peter Price were ready to move on and hand the reins of their iconic New Hope music club to a new generation of managers last summer, many feared that John and Peter’s would become another lost piece of lost rock ‘n’ roll history.

But Kevin Rauch, Mike Wieners and Chris Williams, who officially became owners on Jan. 19, show every sign of keeping the best of the John and Peter’s tradition, while moving the business into the future.

“John and I are are happy as hell with the new owners,” Price said in an October 2017 interview. “The most important thing to me is they’ll continue the music.”

“It really is an honor for the three of us to be able to carry this torch,” Wieners said in an interview Tuesday. “The musical history here is second to none. This little stage has an energy that is not found in many rooms, and unfortunately in this era, a lot of rooms similar to this are going away — iconic establishments like CBGB and the Wetlands [in New York City]. All of these establishments over the years have succumbed to the almighty dollar, but here in New Hope, I think it’s critically important to maintain that heritage.”

Of course, the music scene in New Hope is alive and well, although many of the acts these days are cover bands.

“Part of the core of the musical heritage here is that we do original music,” observed Wieners. “Bands come here, and they do play covers, but they make the song their own, they improvise on top of it, and that’s where the magic happens. You can hear a song you’ve heard a thousand times before, and fall in love with it again.”

Best known for local, original acts, John and Peter’s has hosted some classic national names in its past, and the new owners plan to continue that tradition.

“We’ve always made it a point throughout our history to try and bring in some of the larger national acts — stopovers between DC and Philadelphia and New York City — and this is a perfect ground for them to play in transit,” Wieners said. “We can’t offer dollar for dollar what those venues can, but we’re offering a night when these bands can come in, ply their trade, and do what they love, and maybe pay for their hotel rooms and get a free meal.”

“So, we want to continue to attract those acts, and it’s a focus of ours moving forward to reinvigorate that, and bring back some of those national acts when we can,” he added.

One of those performers is Micky Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, who continues to play at the club during the Invitational Jam on Wednesdays.

(L to R) Rauch, Williams and Wieners.

“The Invitational is an entity unto itself,” said Wieners. “Every week, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame guitar players, international touring musicians, and people that have been in the music industry for decades, come to our stage on Wednesday, and do the thing they love, and do it at a level that is not comparable to any place I have ever been.”

Wieners, Rauch and Williams have already upgraded much of the audio equipment at John and Peter’s to make that music sound even better.

“We’ve brought in three new powered monitors — they’re basically speakers that point inward toward the musicians on stage — and they allow the artists to hear themselves more clearly, so they know they’ve hit the right notes,” Wieners explained. “That’s something that was forever a stumbling block here, and it’s critically important to the musicians.”

“Through Micky [Melchiondo], we’ve also been able to garner a relationship with Fender, and they’ve provided us with two guitar amps and a bass amp, which have been a godsend to our musicians,” Wieners continued. “Pete Brown is with Clair Global, and he’s been a longtime friend to John and Peter’s, and has played here in innumerable acts over the years. He showed up one night to play with his band the Hotheads, and at the end of the show, just said, ‘That drum kit over there is yours now.’ So, bands can conceivably show up with cymbals, a snare drum, guitars, and chords, and plug right in.”

Wieners says, in fact, that the entire sound system at John and Peter’s has been upgraded.

“We’ve brought the sound system into the 21st century by procuring a Yamaha TF rack — a full digital system with the ability to store information– and so if a band comes, they play once, and they like the settings they had, they can take a thumb drive and save it, and then the next time they come, the settings are exactly where they were when they last walked off the stage,” said Wieners. “It’s increased the sound quality in this room immeasurably.

“The monitors and the board would not have been possible without Joe Kramer, who does the Invitational,” said Williams. “He’s a regional Yamaha audio rep, and he helped spec out what we needed, got us training, and helped us out with the pricing on that, too. The music community really stepped up.”

The food menu at the club has also been improved, according to the new owners.

“We knew what really sold well — the burgers will remain the same, the reuben will remain the same, and then we’ve introduced some new things,” said Wieners. “We’ve introduced an entire Tater Tot bar, where you can mix and match toppings. We’re getting a lot of raised eyebrows over the Reuben Tots, with pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and Russian dressing for the dipping sauce. We’ve also done a Parmesan Pepper sauce with poblano peppers, Nacho Tots, and Texas Tots with chili and cheese. We also are getting pork, and seasoning it and slow roasting it here in a couple of different ways, and it’s been a real hit.”

And co-owner Rausch has been leveraging his relationships with distributors to add more craft beers to the list.

“Beer from Wiseacre Brewing in Tennessee has been selling really well,” said Wieners. “Mojo IPA from Boulder Beer is another. And Neshaminey Creek here in Pennsylvania has a wonderful product line.”

New management has also worked hard to spruce up the general appearance of the joint, they say.

“The building itself is old,” Wieners observed. “It needs a little love in places. We’ve already gone through and spent a lot of time cleaning. We’ve gone into parts of the building nobody wants to, and really scrubbed it, and added a coat of paint in the band room. We’ve put a new roof over the outside area, and added heat lamps for the colder months.”

Despite the renovations, the new owners are not planning any major zigs or zags in the road ahead.

“A very wise man once told me, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ and over 45 years, this place has proven not to be broken,” explained Wieners. “We need to tinker with things, and tweak some things, and we’re making a lot of progress. We have a whole new merchandise line coming out, and a whole new website we’ve developed, and looking forward, we want to develop new revenue streams online.”

Above all, new management seems grateful for the opportunity to continue John and Peter’s vision.

“We’ve been given the privilege to carry on the traditions that John and Peter had in place since day one,” said Williams. “Their philosophy, and the open, welcoming vibe of the place, is going to continue as long as we can.”

“There’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude from the three of us and our staff,” Wieners chimed in. “Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for being part of this.”

“I look at this building as a microcosm of New Hope, where everyone is welcome,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in, as long as you treat everyone in the room with respect, this building will always welcome you back, and will always have something to offer you.”

Right on.

Look for our upcoming interview with John Larsen in the weeks ahead.

 

 

About the Author

- “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

Displaying 5 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. kendealite@gmail.com' ken harvey says:

    Good luck new owners…I was there at the beginning when it was a dress shop–John had asked me to help renovate & make it into a coffee shop, poetry & chess matches also on the menu. Peter came along later..spent many hours with all the hippies & Newhopeians trying to change the world-sadly many of whom are no longer with us……carry on the tradition guys, its long, strong and rich

  2. Norris@yahoo.com' Fred Norris says:

    So happy that the new owners will preserve the spirit and traditions of this American rock and roll icon. Particularly the Invitational, when on any given Wednesday you can enjoy the rock and roll stylings of such legends as Mickey Melchiondo, Guy Heller, or Mikey Fresh.

    • I was visiting from Greenwich about a year ago and stopped in for the Invitational. J&P’s brings me back to the old rock dives I used to hang out in in my youth in the 5 Towns in Long Island. Mickey brought Mikey Fresh up to the stage to jam. It was magic!

  3. thasluprus@thraml.com' Sandra says:

    Glad to see a musical tradition continue with enthusiastic new owners. Great passing of the torch. That being said, I’m afraid it will take more than a good scrubbing & a coat of paint in one room before I’d ever spend a night in there again, let alone eat. Hoping for the best, I’ll check it out in a few weeks.

  4. zencat2727@gmail.com' zen cat says:

    Sounds great! But I would love it if you could invest in used Korg keyboard for a nice piano sound.

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