The American Bar in Belfast's Sailortown area has stood the test of time. Situated down by the docks, it has been The American Bar since the 1860s.
No one now knows why the pub was so named. It’s location in north Belfast may have influenced the original owners. There would have been links to the Americas through shipping, trade, and emigration. Thousands of people left Ireland from Belfast docks during the 19th century. Many set off for the New World especially during the famine of the mid 1800s. The American Bar may have been the last stopping off point for a quick drink to steel the nerves before boarding. Adventure would await all those making the journey.
A woman named Ellinor Charters ran The American Hotel at Princes Dock, a cul-de-sac connecting to Dock Street as far back as 1840. Twenty years later, the premises were Samuel Savage’s American Hotel. The 1860s saw The American Inn open on the current site, where it has stood ever since.
Boxing legends in the Bar
Throughout its history, The American Bar would play host to some of the toughest hard men in Belfast. Sailortown was home to seamen, dockers, carters, and riveters. The men who built the Titanic may have enjoyed a pint of the black stuff after a long shift at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard.
Another Belfast legend from the area was the undisputed boxing world champion of the 1940s, Rinty Monaghan. Rinty was a mercurial character in his native north Belfast and enjoyed a singalong as much as a fight in the ring. He took that singing on the road during World War Two, entertaining troops across Europe. Monaghan’s photo adorns the wall in The American Bar along with some other pugilists from the city.
Visit The American Bar
The pub is one of the first buildings visitors to Belfast see when they disembark the Isle of Man ferry. It seems likely then, the American GIs would have found it welcoming them as they stepped shore at the nearby Dufferin Dock on 26th January 1942.
Just an ordinary wee pub. We didn’t want it to be a fancy bar or nightclub or a venue. Just a wee pub.
Pedro Donald interviewed in 2016.
After years in the wilderness, the American Bar reopened in October 2016 as a pub with a reputation for good beer and live music. Before Pedro Donald, proprietor of The Sunflower Bar, took on the license, the Sailortown boozer had closed in 2013.
The current layout is reminiscent of a traditional working mens’ pub. Downstairs is a public bar while patrons access the upstairs lounge through different doors.
Sailortown currently is under development. Businesses moving to the area include newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life as well as UTV. A new Ulster University campus is also planned for the area. The influx of people coming to the area will mean plenty of people propping up The American Bar for years to come.