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Outdoor dining, banner at New Hope riverfront complex raise eyebrows

New Hope restaurant and bar owners can’t wait until next Friday, when Bucks County is expected to move into the yellow phase of the state’s reopening plan, and they will be allowed to offer limited outdoor dine-in service to customers.

But the owners of New Hope’s riverfront complex, which encompasses the Bucks County Playhouse and Stella restaurant at the Ghost Light Inn, apparently aren’t waiting for the all-clear signal. Unlike the rest of New Hope, food lovers there are enjoying outdoor dining at chairs placed on a grassy square and along the promenade, where a large banner reads “Free New Hope.”

While the Playhouse announced it was canceling its 2020 season May 14, its Deck restaurant continues to operate on a take-out basis, as does Stella. The Ferry Market food hall under the same ownership on South Main Street is also offering outdoor dining on its waterfront patio.

But it’s the “Free New Hope” banner hanging from the promenade railing that irks some locals the most.

“New Hope has been free for as long as I remember,” said New Hope business owner Peter Markowicz. “Instead of that stupid sign, I would love to see a big sign saying ‘New Hope Free Parking!'”

“Why are chairs and tables allowed at the Playhouse/Stella compound?” asked Fran’s Pub owner Karen S. Meyers. “Apparently it’s okay because it’s private property. When my customers come in and park on my private property, they are asked to leave. Amazing how the bench on the side of my property was removed for some B.S. about not being able to sanitize it.”

New Hope Borough officials last month closed several public spaces and removed benches to stop visitors from using them as places to eat takeout food and picnic.

Spokespersons for Bucks County Playhouse and Ghost Light Inn were unable to be reached.

About the author

Charlie Sahner

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


  • Visiting July 3 to 5 2020 will we be able to sit to eat or should I bring my own chairs I hope shops will be open?

  • No compassion for the elderly.
    How about a crosswalk light in the middle of town so people dont’t have to walk so far to cross street. No place to sit with out paying. Side walks to narrow. If your old like I am and walk slow you get pushed aside and frowned upon. $$$ Rules Town. Try to get a free drink of water, yep water bowls out for dogs. Makes me thing about the spread of SAR-Covid 19 many dogs drinking from same bowl.

  • To Sandra –

    New Hope has been designated RED for weeks now. Everyone in town was supposed to comply. The Borough removed benches at the south end of town because customers were sitting there to eat their food and not leaving. There is a huge electronic sign near the WaWa that says, “You know the drill. Social Distancing, Hand Washing, and No Picnicking after you get your Food.”

    So my question remains, why does this establishment get to flaunt the laws that have applied to all of the other restaurants in New Hope? The governor went so far as to say that restaurants could be fined for violating his order during the red phase.

    Hopefully, Bucks County will go “Yellow” on Friday, June 5th.
    And no, I’m not “happy with myself” for calling out an inequity in our wonderful town. I’m upset that rules are not enforced equally.

    • “. . .flaunt the laws.” They are not laws. Do a little research on how a law becomes a law. Interesting that none of these “laws” are being enforced during protests & riots in all of the Democrat-run cities and states.

      • Sorry you feel the need to pick apart words instead of addressing the context of my concern about inconsistent enforcing of rules, guidelines, laws – whatever you want to call it. Throwing in political digs is irrelevant too. Uh-oh. I used another trigger word. Are you going to analyze that too?

  • It’s important to say right away how much I love this town and how grateful I am to have been raised here, as well as raising my children here. However, there are just too many inconsistencies with regard to the businesses in town as well as the residents.

    For starters, in the beginning of covid-19, there were three police in front of Fran’s Pub for eight hours a day. We would like to thank you for your police protection and making us here at Fran’s feel safe.

    Why are chairs and tables allowed at the Playhouse/Stella compound? Apparently it’s okay because it’s private property. When my customers come in and park on my private property, they are asked to leave.
    Amazing how the bench on the side of my property was removed for some B.S. about not being able to sanitize it. Do you realize how absurd when there are benches all over town still?

    At Ferry Market, customers are allowed inside to order. What happened to curbside? Folks we are in RED — read the rules.

    I think my favorite thing through all this is the wedding which was hosted by NHPD on Saturday, May 16 — serious!

    Maybe now would be a great time for property owners and shop owners to get their property cleaned up and looking good. Maybe it’s time for the borough to enforce its codes that were hand delivered, mailed, and even listed in the New Hope Borough Spring 2020 newsletter.

  • How dare these evil business owners who purchased these dilapidated buildings on the river, invested millions of dollars to rehab the buildings while creating many jobs for the area have the gall to want to reopen their businesses after going on 3 months of arbitrary shutdown by this clown of a governor. Welcome to liberal New hope… When you reopen we will be there to support you

    • Except that they were NOT dilapidated. The Ferry Market was home to SEVERAL little shops, but the owner basically doubled the rent every couple years, and when he decided to kick them all out, they had VERY short notice. I *REFUSE* to go into the Ferry Market because of that.

    • So, Tim O, what you are saying is that other restaurants in New Hope who have put their heart, souls and money into their businesses don’t count as much as the Riverfront restaurants?

      Why can’t they wait until Bucks County goes yellow on Friday June 5th, like all of the other restaurants have had to do?

  • The owners of the restaurant and playhouse, who moved to Doylestown approximately 15 years ago from Michigan, need to follow the same rules as the rest of the town, county and state. How dare them, that they assume the rules don’t apply. The sign is rediculous. This is a world-wide pandemic and is just as dangerous today as it was six months ago in Wuhan, China. Fine them; close them down immediately and the town needs to remind them that they are not special just because they bought another company from an elderly couple and sold the same company years laters, after the economy turned around, for a huge profit. They are just like the rest of us and the law is the law.

  • Two points stick out about the riverfront complex. First, as mentioned by Peter Markowicz, what is that big sign supposed to mean? Is New Hope not free because people need to wear masks and social distance? Is it not free because the powers-that-be decided to block off access to public areas and removed all benches so that visitors had no place to sit or to eat the takeout food they purchased? That reeks of a ‘buy it, spend your money and get the hell out’ attitude. Maybe those same visitors will remember being made to feel unwelcome after restrictions are lifted and will go elsewhere to spend their much needed dollars. Second, while other businesses were being gutted by the severe restrictions, the owners of New Hope’s riverfront complex continued making money by “being incredibly generous as to purchase those beautiful tables and chairs and providing porta potties for their visitors” (quote from a New Hope official). Note that those same visitors purchased takeout from the complex’s businesses and then sat around those same tables — the only seating in town. I personally have no dog in this fight but it doesn’t take being a rocket scientist to recognize the unfairness of what went down. Oh, sorry, I forgot — science is fake news these days.

  • Seems elitist, selfish and clueless, especially since the rest of the town has been asked to abide by the guidelines.

    Free New Hope? Really?

    • ” . . .asked to abide by the guidelines?” Yes, asked and they declined. These are edicts NOT laws. Love your name-calling and the attempt to shame others into complying. Feel good about yourself now? I will definitely go there to eat & spend my money.

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