PROVINCETOWN — The current owners of the Crown & Anchor complex, Bill Dougal and Rick Murray, are in the final stages of selling the property to their longtime employee Jonathan Hawkins and his boyfriend and business partner, Paolo Martini. The innkeeper, entertainment, and liquor licenses were all transferred from Dougal and Murray to Martini and Hawkins at a licensing board meeting on Oct. 12.
Both the current and incoming owners declined to comment on the details of the transaction at this time.
The Crown & Anchor complex, at 247 Commercial St., is a cornerstone of gay life in Provincetown. Its three stages host numerous drag shows, Broadway singers, stand-up comics, and variety acts, and its six bars are a key locus for many of Provincetown’s gay events, including Women’s Week and Bear Week.
“The Crown & Anchor is a historic and iconic institution of Provincetown,” said Bob Sanborn, director of the Provincetown Business Guild, to the licensing board. “It is critical to the local economy.”
Under Dougal and Murray, the property was both locally- and gay-owned, and if the transaction is completed as planned, that will remain true. Corporate consolidation has been a fearsome force in many industries across the country, from hospitality to health care to residential real estate to news media. Maintaining local ownership of a key business would mean Provincetown will have again bucked a trend.
Hawkins’s background is in the performing arts. A trained vocalist, he runs a production company, Live From Provincetown, and has worked at the Crown & Anchor for seven years, helping to book shows of all kinds.
“I have had the privilege of working under Rick Murray since 2014,” Hawkins told the licensing board on Tuesday. “I came here as an entertainer, then began helping him produce his concert series. Last summer, Live From Provincetown worked with the Pilgrim House, the Boatslip, the Provincetown Brewing Co., and the Brass Key, all to help keep art and entertainment alive during the Covid pandemic.”
The virtual concerts held in the spring and summer of 2020 helped raise money for artists who could not perform during the Covid lockdowns and venue closures of that year.
“For the last two years, Rick and I have worked together to make this transition as seamless as possible,” said Hawkins. “The Crown will be run as a business — but my commitment will be to the community, its artists, and all those who enjoy coming here year after year.”
Hawkins’s business partner, Martini, is chief scientific officer for rare diseases at Moderna, the maker of mRNA Covid vaccines in Boston. “I’m sorry, but I’m the boring one,” he joked to the licensing board.
Martini said he could not discuss the upcoming purchase of the Crown, but he did speak to the Independent about his life and career.
“Moderna has five chief scientific officers,” said Martini. “I run the team for rare diseases. We announced two weeks ago a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania to make a drug for Crigler-Najjar disease — it’s an ultra-rare disease, probably not more than 2,000 patients worldwide.”
Moderna also has teams for autoimmune disease, for cancer, and for infectious disease, said Martini. Both the Covid vaccine and a new vaccine against HIV, which is now entering human trials, are part of the infectious disease division of Moderna.
The fifth chief scientific officer studies mRNA platforms and delivery systems. She and her wife are also moving to Provincetown, said Martini.
Martini bought an apartment here in 2020, he said, then bought a house with Hawkins when he realized he was staying here full-time.
“It hasn’t been difficult at all to do my work from here,” said Martini. Once a week he wakes up early, drives to Boston, and comes back by evening. The rest of his work he can do remotely.
“When I get in the car, knowing that I’m coming all the way back here, I’m happy,” he said. “I haven’t had to stay overnight in Boston for a whole year.”
Two other Moderna executives have second homes here, he said, and he knows scientists from GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen, and Takeda who have moved here during the pandemic as well.
“Counting me, it was four gay scientists, just at that apartment complex,” said Martini. “To live in a place that lets you be who you want to be — these are people who are going to come and stay.”
Remote work like the kind Martini describes could be a game-changer for Cape Cod. He also wants to work on maintaining pathways for queer artists to come here.
“I want to put together a foundation that can give artists an opportunity to create here,” said Martini. “Give them a full experience, and the opportunity to exhibit and sell in this town. And then, if they decide this is the place they want to be, make it sustainable for them.
“The number of young people who can afford to be here is very limited,” said Martini. “I want to discuss, eventually, what can we do with the town to create these spaces that would allow young people to stay.”