The oldest known Irish pub in the US opened for business in Baltimore in 1847 by Patrick Healy. At the time it went by Healey’s and was located on Schroder Street and Lemon Street. Fifteen years later, it moved down the block to its current location on Pratt Street.
There it has remained ever since, run by members of the Healey and Rowley family. But at the end of August, the venerable establishment, which is now known as Patrick’s of Pratt Street, will close its doors for once and for all.
“It’s just time to move on,” said Patrick Rowley, who with his wife, Anne, has owned and operated the pub since 1999. “I’m almost 70, and I don’t feel old, just too tired to be on my feet carrying drinks all night, he told IrishCentral.
“We don’t have an heir or a family member who wants to take it over; they’re all professionals with their own lives.” The Rowley family’s Irish roots lie in Mayo, in the Foxford and Swinford areas.
There isn’t a firm date yet for the closing or what is sure to be a wonderful last hurrah, but Pat said that the bar would be open through August and that a last auction will take place after Labor Day, when the bar closes for good.
When Pat and Anne took over the bar from his uncle in 1999, it went by Rowley’s, only served beer and wine, and never opened on St. Patrick’s day as, according to the website, the family didn't like to see the Irish making fools of themselves on a 'Holy Day.'
Pat and Anne introduced a food menu and a wine list that have since won awards from a slew of Baltimore papers and critics (the crab cakes are especially popular) while maintaining the bar’s distinct character.
As a 2006 review in the Baltimore Sun noted, Patrick’s is “remarkably uncluttered, especially when one considers all the history it contains within its walls. It's also blessedly free of cutesy four-leaf clovers and dancing leprechauns, even in the days surrounding St. Patrick's Day.”
Pat said the philosophy he’s always maintained is that a good Irish pub is built on a foundation of friends and family.
“When you walk into Patrick’s, it’s like a family,” he said. “Irish pubs are supposed to be friendly, welcoming places. It shouldn’t be about politics, or serious stuff, or what’s wrong with anybody.”
As for the future of the bar after it’s sold, Pat said he’d “like to see it stay Irish but I’m not that emotional about it,” understanding that it will likely take on a new life under new ownership.
He and Anne will still be plenty busy, however, running tours to Ireland, something they’ve done in their spare time for the past 17 years.
A couple of times a year, Patrick’s Custom Tours takes groups – usually anywhere from 20 to 40 people – to Ireland to show them around the country they love and know so well.
One of the unique things they do is plan trips for organizations or non-profits looking to raise money for a cause, church, school, etc.
“Because of our business, we know the value of people, Patrick explained. “So when we started leading the tours, we asked pubs, restaurants, hotels, what it usually takes for them to get a good crowd. We bring in a big group of people who’ll stay for around three hours, so now we have places all over Ireland that we work with who’ll make a donation in exchange for the people coming in.”
So they’re looking forward to leading more tours and spending more time in Ireland.
As Pat put it, “I might be too tired to stand behind a bar for hours, but I can still sit in a coach and talk about Ireland just fine.”