HARRY'S ST. LOUIS GUIDE TO TAVERNS, PUBS
SALOONS & OTHER DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS
By Dan Brenna & Steve Weaver
St. Louis: Knight Publishing Company, 1980
This guide book has two Dogtown taverns in it, McDermotts and O'Shea's.
The entries for these places are:
6400 Oakland Avenue
Thomas and Josephine McDermott, prop.
The McDermotts have been at this Oakland address for Twenty-six years. For nine years
before that, the place was Pat's Bar and Grill. The only reason to mention that is the sign from Pat's still hangs
above the door. It is probably one of the oldest Budweiser signs in the city.
Sports is spoken here. The t.v. is on for all sports, and the mixed age
crowd are staunch fans. Lots of amateur athletes head here after a
practice or game. The Blues and the Big Red are also regulars for
McDermott's food and drink.
The lunch crowd here comes from all over. Many downtown office workers
will call in and order for take-out service. The menu has special
Monday -- beef stew, and on Saturdays -- chicken. Both are favorites.
McDermotts chicken has been rated by several magazines and newspapers
as among the top five in the city. Shrimp and chicket livers are also
big hits here.
The Tavern is family style. It is noisy with conversation and
cheering poing on during games. It’s a tavern, as the McDermotts
wished. for a family meal and gathering place.
The decor is nothing special. There are pictures of the Blues,
and one of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. There is a long bar, and there are
lots of tables and booths.
People come, not for the decor, but for the food and friends. Lou Adams
delightful lady, has worked here for 19 years, and knows most everyone
who walks through the door. She can also give you a mini-history of
the St. Louis area.
If you haven’t been to McDermotts yet, you are one of the few in
St. Louis who hasn’t.
Mon -- Sat 8 a.m. - Midnight, 75/$1.00, radio/Lv.
Bob Corbett comments. If these authors have their facts right, and this book was
written in 1980, then:
- 1945-1954 -- Run as Pat's Bar and Grill.
- 1954 - 1980 (book's date) The McDermotts took over Pat's in
1954 from Pat and Theresa Connolly.
However, other data I have fixes the opening of Pat's in 1942. Thus
some changing of the dates might work like this: assume the book, published
in 1980 was written in 1979. Then try these years:
- 1942 +9 = 1951 for Pat and Teresa Connolly.
- 1952 + 26 = 1978 for the McDermotts.
- Joe Finn wrote to say that Teresa Connolly and Paul Jovanovich owned the
bar from 1980 to 1999.
This would leave only one year of confusion between the data I've
collected and that of the authors.
Joe Finn took over Pat's Bar and Grill in 2000 according to my
records, so does anyone know the propritors between 1980 and 1999?
William Green, propritor
The story of O’Shea’s would fill volumes. The oldest Irish
saloon in continuous operation in the United States, O’Shea’s has the
kind of past, rich with drinking lore, that any tavern would envy.
Jack 0’ Shed established this joint in 1907 in the original Irish
section of St. Louis called “Dogtown.” Through the years, O’Shea’s has
hosted illegal gambling in a room upstairs, hidden illegal Irish
immigrants, operated illegally on Sundays, caused a Code 2000 alert
(police lingo for a riot), had a patron in a rage ram through the front
of the building with his automobile, and seen plenty of other notorious
Women weren’t allowed in O’Shea’s in times gone by. When they were finally
admitted, they were shuttled off to booths, never at the bar. The bar
wasn’t particularly suited to them anyway. It was fitted with an
inclined trough at foot-level which led out the front door to the street
for those who didn’t feel like walking the necessary steps to the
Well, we’re all a bit more civilized now, aren’t we? A huge portrait of
Jack O’Shea hangs over the bar now along with a massive
oil of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales. About 75 percent of the
neighborhood is still Irish and these locals, some of whom have been
boozing here for 45 years. make up about 30 percent of O’Shea’s
business. The rest come from other areas of the city. Bums and
millionaires trade cynical tales at the bar in easy comradery. A
genuine, Old World pub atmosphere. In the back room, the place
becomes a piano bar on Friday and Saturday nights: on Sundays,
blues and jazz. And on St. Patrick’s Day, Lord have mercy! For
better or worse, 0’ Sheas started the tradition in St. Louis of serving
green beer, dumping green sawdust on the floor, painting the
sidewalks green and giving away corned beef and cabbage. Such may
be the reason for their commitment to total anarchy on their patron
Saint's day. Who knows? What we do know for certain, however, is
that O’Shea’s is quite an experience, and quite a juicy slice of St.
Louis bar life, both past and present.
Tues - Sat 11 a.m. - 1:30 a.m., Sun 1 p.m. - 12 a.m., 65 cent/$1.25,
HH 4 p.m. - 7 p.m., pinball, pool, juke or live music.
Bob Corbett comments: Oh my, the people at O'Shea's had a lot of
fun with the authors who were either totally duped by the nonsense fed
them or just didn't worry about getting it right.
First of all the business about the longest running Irish bar in the U.S. is
simply laughable. Every heard of Boston? Secondly, someone told the
authors it was founded in 1907???? Hilarious. The building wasn't even
built until 1928 and there was this thing called Prohibition. (Actually
O'Shea did open a soft drink place during the last years of Prohibition.
Thus, one could make this case: If he opened O'Shea's as a soft drinks
place in 1928 and if no other Irish establishment in the U.S. started
back up BEFORE 1928, then the claim of oldest continuously running tavern
could be maintained. Hilarious.)
However, the 1907 is sheer rot. Next door, where today the Dogtown
Gallery is, was opened in 1904 as W.T. Coyne's Saloon. It ran until about 1927
and Jack O'Shea had nothing to do with it.
Much of the rest, however, is defensible, and the authors do say toward
the end that some of the patrons had been drinking there for 45 years.
Again, using the 1980 date of publication, that would mean 1935, and
that is possible.