The passing of longtime local barkeep Andy Gulvezan left his ground-breaking Full Moon space on Main Street standing empty. Another longtime local restaurateur, Chris Pawlicki, owner of the Old Town, has filled it. On Friday the 13th of May, Pawlicki and business partner Jeff Paquin reopened it as the Ravens Club.
Pawlicki says they wanted to keep some of the Full Moon’s best-loved features, like the oversized lamp posts and massive oak bar, but also to redefine the space. Paquin says they asked local design firm Momus for “a 1920s, ’30s kind of vibe,” looking to upscale jazz clubs, speakeasies, and classic film noir for inspiration. The result, which blends reproductions with the work of contemporary artists and artisans, is lush, intimate, dark, and cozy.
In a nod to speakeasy tradition, the Ravens Club doesn’t splash its name across the front of the building; the sign is simply a drawing of a raven on a white background. As with Knight’s steakhouse, which displays a cutout of the chess piece, you have to know what the sign means to know what the place is.
Pawlicki and Paquin, both Ann Arbor natives, have known each other for fifteen years. Pawlicki, forty-six, is well known through the Old Town. Paquin, forty-three, graduated from Eastern with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, spent two years with Domino’s, then jumped ship for the automotive industry. “But my passion was really food service, the creative side of the business,” he says. “Chris and I had known each other for a while and always looked at opportunities, and then this one popped up [that] we couldn’t pass up.”
When Pawlicki and Paquin learned that Dan Vernia, then banquet chef at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Michigan, had spent time at the Clements Library researching menus from the 1800s, they knew they had to meet him. “We were looking at cocktails from that period, and to find a guy who can make food from that time–it was lightning in a bottle,” Pawlicki says.
As the Raven’s executive chef, Vernia is offering what he calls “heirloom cuisine”: slow cooking with lots of roasting and braising. “Everything we do here is from scratch,” Paquin says, “from the desserts to all the sauces to the fish stock. It’s amazing what you can do with bones.”
To head up the bar, the partners were lucky enough to grab Ari Sussman, the man behind many of the creative cocktails at Eve. “When Eve closed, we swooped him up,” Paquin says. “Ari’s a genius.”
The partners say their customers range from post-grads to grandparents. The older crowd comes in at 5 o’clock, when the club opens; as the evening gets later, the crowd gets younger. Paquin says younger customers don’t always take to the Raven’s classic drinks: “Our cocktails are very boozy, very old-school, and sometimes they don’t like it. They’re used to something with more sweet, more sugary flavor.” The older crowd likes them just fine.
For now, Paquin is spending most of his time at the Ravens Club and Pawlicki is holding the fort at the Old Town until things settle into a routine. Meanwhile, Paquin says, it’s “a mad dash between the two.” Pawlicki laughs, adding that he does a lot of jaywalking.
The Ravens Club, 207 S. Main, 214-0400. Tues.-Fri. 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat. 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 5 p.m.-9 p.m. www.theravensclub.com