“Yes, I did an appearance at the Deer Park. One of my agents works in the Philly area and approached me about coming to UD to do an appearance. I had never been to Delaware and wanted to see the sights, and have a reason to go back to Philly. The students and the rest of the people at the Deer Park were super nice and enthusiastic, everyone was very friendly.
I came in on the train, and was shown around the UD campus…it was definitely one of the more beautiful campuses I've been at. I wish I would have had even one more day to spend at UD, unfortunately my schedule at that point was crazy and I had to leave right afterwards. I would love to go back if I ever got the chance, though!”
- Landon Lueck of MTV’s The Real World Philadelphia
“One time at the Deer Park, towards the end of the night, we were standing in front of the building to wait for someone. The bouncers weren't at the door, and one of the guys in the group I was with -- who was wearing a red t-shirt like the bouncers were -- for some reason decided to stand in front of the door, pretend he was a bouncer, and actually charged cover to two people coming in. They paid-up, but I guess later on figured something was up, so they talked to one of the real bouncers who was inside and found out they had been ripped off. By the time the bouncer went out to go after the ‘impostor,’ he had taken off.”
- Brenda, UD '02
“I wasn't 21 yet, but I was there for the last night of the old Deer Park. I was living up the street and heard all the noise, so we went down to participate. I remember a bunch of us sneaking our own beer down so we could drink on Main Street with everyone else. A couple of my friends were at the Deer Park and raided the kitchen and bar. People were passing around bottles of liquor they had grabbed, and one friend came out with a sandwich that he made in the kitchen because he was hungry.
The whole night was fun until someone threw a beer bottle at the cops who were all lined up in their riot gear. When they started to advance we took off; didn't want to see what might happen next.”
- Rob S, UD '03
“I was there when it closed! I LOVED the Deer Park. My friends and I got a tad out of control. At one point, I remember looking up onto the roof to see my friend hooking up with some dude up there. Haha, good times!”
- Jen S, UD '01
“I was there with all my friends for the close of the old Deer Park. I remember the night vividly. The Vybe played that night. This funk, rock, hip-hop, soul groove band were close personal friends and always rocked the place. The Deer Park was their home stage and they always drew a packed house, so it was fitting that they be the last to play the joint.
The Park was crazy packed that night. The evening started off well, it was a good Tuesday night with a good band, good friends and the added energy from the impending closing of our favorite drinking spot. As a couple of hours passed, things slowly slipped a bit down hill. The bar wasn't fully stocked that night because the place was closing, but the place was filled to capacity, so the liquor and beer quickly dwindled. People started getting rowdy for the lack of alcohol and to put it lightly, ‘overly nostalgic,’ about it being the last night. I remember drinking rust flavored Yuenglings from the bottoms of the Deer Park coolers, that had probably been sitting there since the Yuengling brewery opened.
About halfway through the evening, around 10 PM or so, someone set off a bunch of firecrackers in the back room where the bands played. It filled that low ceiling area in the back with white smoke for a little while. Come to think of it, I am not sure if the smoke came from the firecrackers, or all the joints that were being smoked inside the Park that night. Whatever it was, they pulled the plug on the band around 11 PM.
I don't know if killing the band early was the plan all along or not, but it was a dumb idea. That decision, combined with the lack of booze, definitely pissed off the crowd real good. Then all of a sudden the two frustrated bartenders at the back bar said, ‘Screw it.’ I heard one say she wasn't feeling good and the other was a rookie, and they took off leaving the back bar unattended.
At that point the irritated, and relatively drunken customers took it upon themselves to make their own drinks. Actually, let me rephrase that, they took it upon themselves to take every bottle of liquor they could carry and dash out the back door.
Somewhere between 11 and 11:30 PM, people started to gather outside on the porch and a good number of people from inside poured onto the porch and street. This wasn't a riot, but more accurately, a gathering. People were mostly drinking, singing and hootin' and hollerin'. The Newark PD showed up, but kept their distance, holding a line at North College Ave to stop traffic, and make sure none of the drunken revelers were run over. The craziness went on for about an hour or two, and then the cops walked their line toward the bar and everyone pretty much dispersed quietly, a few bottles may have been thrown but nothing you wouldn't expect from an excited crowd of drunken college students.
The truth is, people mostly rallied into the streets and ‘rioted’ that night because they were sad to see their favorite dive bar and hangout go, it was the last hoorah. The Deer Park was sort of a rite of passage. The place was almost like a shrine to the non-frat boy, non-sorority and non-jock set. It was the best place for live music, live original music that is, and a place where you could get kicked out one night and welcomed back the next. You could smash bottles on the floor without anyone even looking twice, and best of all it was the type of place where two people could be getting in a fight one minute, and singing Christmas carols together the next. I witnessed this happen, and any Newark native will tell you that the best nights at the Deer Park were Christmas Eves.
And to anyone who ever said the renovations were the most money ever spent to make a place the same and attract the same crowd, you must have either never stepped foot in the old Deer Park or just didn't understand it, because the DP is nothing like it used to be. The building isn't the same, the specials aren't the same, burger nights with fresh ground beef from Herman's Meat Market on Cleveland Ave aren't the same, Monday '70s nights with ‘Mystery Hour’ aren't the same, the bands aren't the same, and the crowd and atmosphere are definitely not the same. In fact, they couldn't be more different. The raven may still reside in the main room at the Deer Park…but something, a lot of something, was lost that 15th of May in 2001.”
- SJZ, UD '01
“It was hardly a riot. I was the manager that last night, and aside from a few hundred people ‘hangin'’ outside, after we had run out of beer and liquor, it was really nothing...the owner decided to call the cops to disperse the crowd off the premises, which took several hours and three local police agencies. Channel 6 from Philly showed up and made a big deal out of it. Think they were looking for another South Street / Mardi Gras incident to report…but it just wasn't!”
- Ridge, UD '01
“I miss the Deer Park. As for old versus new, I am nostalgic, so I'll always pick old. Although I must admit that the revamp is nice, especially with the opening of the second floor and upstairs deck. The main bar downstairs is much nicer than the old bar, but the back room is so closed-in with booths!
The thing I liked most about the old DP is the people who used to show up there. It was always a great melting pot of townies, students, hippies, sorors and frat boys, and regular people alike. The Deer Park arguably had the best mix of people, and therefore a great atmosphere. They booked some interesting original bands, too, which was a nice variation from the cover bands who regularly played the other bars.
The place was a hole, but it had its charm. One thing you could always count on was an enormous puddle in the Ladies’ room…not the back one, the one just outside the main bar. Puddle of what, I'll never know. The Deer Park had a welcoming, homey kind of vibe. No one ever felt out of place there.”
- Gretchen R, UD '00
“My perspective on what many call ‘The Real Deer Park.’ Yes, those of us attending UD before it was sold, and still there when Bob Ashby renovated and reopened it, were hopping mad about the loss of our dingy, dirty Main Street watering hole. Change is never easy, and widely unaccepted when fond memories and a lengthy history are apparently ‘renovated’ into something completely different. But, hey, that's life, and the sooner we all grow and accept it, the sooner we can all stop being angry at things we cannot change and start focusing on those we can.
Did I love the former Deer Park? Hell yes. Was I sad to see it become something completely different? Most definitely. But, let me offer you this: if you had the choice, UD alumni, between a new Deer Park in the same historic building that you can meet at and reminisce in, versus the complete destruction of the building (the name, and any sign that said place even existed), which would you choose?
I'd choose new Deer Park over no Deer Park, any day. Don't blame Ashby for his vision of a new Deer Park. He is a well-respected restaurateur, a close family friend, and former employer of mine. I was working at McGlynn's while attending UD, and I wasn't happy to see his DP changes either, but I'm not angry at him for it. He saved the building, and quite frankly, had the previous owners kept at it, the place would have fallen into worse disrepair and Newark would be faced with yet another historic landmark torn down, to make way for yet another new apartment building or Galleria.
I only went to the Deer Park once after it reopened. It wasn't the same, and I wasn't comfortable there. It's a shame new UD students will never get to experience what we all loved, but they can't miss what they never knew existed.”
- Angela, UD '00
“Saturday night, March 24th, 2007. It was the night of my bachelor party, and in true UD style, my friends and I opted for a night of barhopping on Main Street. I booked rooms for us at the Super 8, next to the old East End Café. The plan was to meet at the Deer Park, have a few drinks, then move on to the next bar and continue down the street until we ended up at the East End for last call, then crash at our rooms at the motel.
We didn’t leave the Deer Park until closing time.
At some time around midnight, we were standing outside and saw a guy dressed in a fuzzy pink Easter Bunny costume walking down the street with two women. It was a weird sight, but I’ve seen weirder (I lived on Wilbur Street from '91 to '93).
A little while later, we saw the same guy walking back up the street; this time, one of the drunks from the DP started yelling something at him. The drunk guy kept yelling as Bunny-dude got closer. Then, they broke into a fight. Bunny knocked the drunk guy to the ground on the sidewalk in front of the Deer Park, then he kept walking down the street. The drunk guy got up and took a run at the Easter Bunny, but the bunny quickly knocked him down and kept on walking. I guess he thought the third time would be the charm, so the guy got up, ran after the bunny, and took a few swings at the bunny.
By this time, we had made our way to the railing of upper deck and the whole bar had joined us to watch the fight.
That’s when it happened. The Easter Bunny started doing Capoeira. He did a handstand and kicked the drunk in the head, knocking him out cold, in the middle of the street near the railroad tracks. Then the Easter Bunny continued to walk away.
Within a minute, Newark police officers showed up and arrested the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny, in handcuffs, was led to a police car while other officers stood around an unconscious guy in the street. We were going to try to explain what had happened to the officers; that the Easter Bunny was minding his own business and defending himself…but it’s hard enough to try to explain what happened, now, without sounding crazy. And seriously, the whole event looked like something out of Tekken.”
- Mark S, UD '95
The Deer Park Tavern in September 2006
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