As a longtime ‘Hamster, the arrival of a bona-fide Irish pub to the downtown scene was more than a personal dream come true. It was a coming of age story for the town itself. It is my humble opinion that no town is really worth living in if it does not have at least a pretend Irish pub. The fact that Uisce is a real Irish pub, with genuine trappings and an actual (gasp, cover your ears, Glenn Beck!) immigrant owner, brings Bellingham a certain legitimacy…an air of maturity and style that it once lacked.
Uisce’s arrival was also a dream come true for its owners, Molee McGarry and David Rooney. To call it a “labor of love” would be a discredit to the Herculean effort and the sheer quantities of willpower, sweat, time and commitment expended in the creation of their masterpiece. And when I say masterpiece, it is no mere hyperbole. These two have an extensive background in the business, and even the smallest detail of Uisce’s warm and genuine atmosphere is the direct and deliberate result of the culmination of that experience. For them, Uisce is home, and all are welcome. It is, simply put, a place for people to meet people…to feel good and share their lives and stories with each other.
Immediately upon arrival, it is obvious that Uisce is different…unique. The vintage hardwood floors, the vaulted ceilings, and the refurbished church-pew benches draw you into another time and place, away from the pains of the economically catastrophic Bush-era hangover that continues to suck the life out of the outside world. No, this place is safe…it is something special. As the heavy old door slowly closes behind you, the air greets your senses with the smells and flavors of better times. You are at once surrounded by a perfect symmetry of class (the bartenders wear ties!) and comfort (pretzels!).
The bar itself (at 34 feet, the longest in Bellingham) was custom built from African mahogany by a Lummi Island cabinet maker. Behind the bar there are 12 beers on tap and 10 Irish Whiskeys, as well as 34 kinds of Scotch, the largest selection of its kind in Bellingham. Also behind the bar is one of Molee’s most prized possessions- a 1942 National cash register, “imported” from one of the oldest bars in San Francisco. It is among the last of its kind that still functions….and Molee is proud to call it her own.
Above the cash register is a rather curious and growing collection of $2 bills. Evidently, these bills are considered lucky in Irish bars, so when the bar first opened they tacked one up above the register. And then somebody added another….and another, and so on, so that the wall is now covered in bills, reaching up toward the ceiling. It seems to be working, though….business is booming!
On the weekends and certain special occasions, there is live music in the front of the pub.The rest of the time there is a jukebox. And what a jukebox it is! Molee hand-selected each and every album, so there is never a dull moment. Of course, my beloved Pogues are featured heavily…which always makes me smile. I’m still dreaming of the night when I can get the whole place to sing along to “Body of an American” at full volume… What a glorious moment that will be…and I can think of no better place for it.
It’s been pretty tough out there for a lot of us lately. The nightlife in Bellingham has, in many ways, taken a serious beating over the past several years, leaving merely a shell of its former self. Thankfully, Molee and David have propped up the scene in a big way. Personally, I plan to thank them directly by posting up at the bar whenever I am in town. I would like to think the rest of you will do the same. If you should happen to see me, please say hello. After all, that’s what its all about.Uisce Irish Pub 1319 Commercial St Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 738-7939 www.uisceirishpub.com