Two Doylestown businessmen hope to restore the Doylestown Inn to its former glory.
Attorney Ron Isgate and Realtor Todd McCarty plan to reopen the Inn on West State Street, which has been closed since last fall.
Their business plan maintains the Inn's 11 hotel rooms on the third floor and the 10 commercial offices on the second.
They hope to add a restaurant to the first floor and a bar to the basement area, Isgate told Doylestown Patch on Thursday.
When their renovations are finished, they hope the new business reflects the important role the property has played throughout Doylestown's history.
"It was the anchor piece of this town for a long time," Isgate said. "For whatever reason, it just kind of fell by the wayside in recent years.
But now we have a good opportunity and we want to bring it back to a place that everyone will be proud to come into. It’s something that we’re all pretty passionate about. We hope everyone else receives it with the same enthusiasm."
Rising from Obscurity
Isgate and McCarty bought the property last week; the sale closed on Dec. 28, Isgate said.
Univest National Bank & Trust foreclosed on the property in August, after being owed $2.9 million by the previous owner, Deauville V L.P. Since then, the bank has owned it but has done little with it, Isgate said. The commercial tenants were kept on a month-to-month lease, but the hotel part was closed, he said.
When Isgate and McCarty first heard the building was for sale, they thought it was an interesting idea. But they weren't sure, given the business' lack of success in recent years.
"Over the last 10 years or so it’s just kind of languished in obscurity," Isgate said. "People didn’t know if it was open, then it was open, then closed again."
When the men finally got inside, though, everything changed.
"Once we walked through the place and were able to really see it, we were totally sold," he said. "We were full bore for it. It has so much potential."
He's not the only one excited by the idea of a rebirth for the Doylestown Inn.
At least one member of Doylestown Borough Council is receptive to the project.
"I’m very excited to see that the Inn will be coming back," council member Joan Doyle said Thursday.
A real estate agent with an interest in historic preservation, Doyle said she has followed the inn's fortunes over the years.
"It is an icon in Doylestown, and with people who are dedicated to making it a first-rate inn and restaurant, I find it a very beneficial project for the community," she said, of Isgate's and McCarty's proposals.
A Storied Past
The buildings that eventually became the Doylestown Inn date to 1871, when Doylestown Borough was home to fewer than 2,000 people. The Inn itself began life about 30 years later and has had a varied, somewhat turbulent, history.
Built in 1902, it was known as Hotel Pollock until it was purchased by Rudolf G. Hein and Mrs. Hein in 1919. They renovated, refurnished and enlarged the hotel, building its reputation as a destination for dining.
In 1938, the Heins bought the building next to the hotel and built two dining rooms, enlarged the lobby and created modern rooms on the second and third floors. By then, the "Jug-in-the-wall" Bar at the hotel was one of the best-known rendezvous points in Central Bucks.
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Mustin then bought the hotel in February 1956 for around $200,000. But they closed it "without warning" on July 4 of the following year, citing ill health.
The property changed hands at least seven more times over the intervening decades before Michael Welch bought it in 1998 for about $600,000.
At the time, it had 20 rooms and a restaurant. Welch wanted to eliminate the hotel rooms entirely, but borough council opposed the move.
In July 2000, they reached a compromise allowing Welch to put shops and offices on the first and second floor and hotel rooms on the third floor.
Welch reopened the Doylestown Inn in 2001 after a substantial renovation that included an interior atrium, elevator and skylight that floods the space with natural light.
But by 2011, the Inn and its owners once again were in financial trouble.
The property was listed for Sheriff's sale in August, but no one stepped up with an acceptable bid. Univest took possession of the property.
Proposals for the Future
The new owners believe they can succeed where others have failed in recent years.
The three revenue streams - hotel, commercial offices and restaurant/bar - are a "unique, multi-faceted business opportunity," they say.
Three other limited partners have invested in the project, Isgate said, describing them as "silent partners" who don't wish to be named publicly. So the venture has enough money behind it to succeed, Isgate said.
Another point in their favor is the condition of the building. After having undergone recent, thorough restorations, the building itself, along with its infrastructure and utilities, is in good shape, he said.
The new owners plan to target a professional clientele traveling to Doylestown for business purposes during the week. The restaurant and bar designs would cater to that clientele, Isgate said.
"We want to cater to the professionals who want a nice place to stay where they can go down and relax," Isgate said. "The bar will be a quiet type of bar, like a wine cellar, where you can sit down and have a nice drink. There's not going to be music blaring all over creation."
He said several local restauranteurs already have expressed interest in running the proposed restaurant.
And if borough council approves the liquor license transfer, they are ready to move immediately on the bar area proposed for the basement.
"We’d like to have the basement bar open by March or April," Isgate said. "That’s pretty aggressive, but we’d love to be open by the spring."
The Liquor License Question
The owners' next step is to ask Doylestown Borough Council to approve the transfer of a new liquor license into town.
That license would replace the one that had been held by the Inn, Doylestown Borough manager John Davis said Thursday.
The Inn's previous liquor license expired and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board eventually withdrew it, Isgate said. The partners plan to buy a liquor license available for sale elsewhere in the county, he said.
The idea of transferring a liquor license into Doylestown may be met with resistance.
In August, neighbors opposed a license transfer requested by The Standard Club, a new club that has replaced the Moose lodge at 127 E. State St., and borough council unanimously denied the request.
But the history of the Doylestown Inn, and the fact that the new license would replace the old one, rather than add to it, could work in the new owners' favor.
Council president Det Ansinn would not say Thursday whether he'd vote in favor of the transfer. The applicants first must officially present their request and their plans and satisfy the council's questions, Ansinn said.
"We’ll hear their presentation and have the hearing and then we’ll weigh it like anything else," Ansinn said.
But the possibility of finally securing the Inn's role in Doylestown is attractive, he admitted.
"There was a time when the Inn was a place. And now you walk past it and it’s just this dead, quiet portion of town," said Ansinn, who grew up in Doylestown.
"I don’t think borough residents will be thrilled by the liquor license, but at the same time, that’s probably going to be part of awakening that building from its slumber. And seeing that building get used is good for the community."
A hearing on the request to transfer in a liquor license is set for Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at borough hall.
- Doylestown Inn up For Sheriff's Sale
- Council Officially Denies Liquor License Transfer
- Attorney Asks for Second Chance for New Club
- Moose Denied Liquor License Transfer