Somerville’s Oldest Pub

The oldest liquor license in town belongs to the Sligo Pub on Elm Street.  In operation for more than 75 years — long before the red line came through town — it’s everything a dive bar should be: small, dingy, cheap and regularly sprinkled with old timers grumbling at the bar about the latest Bruins game.

The local watering hole takes its name from Sligo, Ireland – the town from where the original owners hailed. Once frequented exclusively by locals in mostly blue collar trades, the crowd is now comprised of town folk, college kids from nearby Tufts University and everyone in between.

I’ve always been a fan of dive bars, and this is definitely one of my favorites. I love the high tables and friendly staff; the place just has a comfortable vibe that makes it my preferred meeting spot for grabbing a casual drink in Davis.  There’s a jukebox with a decent selection of tunes in the back, across from the graffiti-strewn tables and next to the lottery ticket machine where I once won $500 with a couple of friends… good times…

An interesting side note: many years ago, a friend and I were smoking cigarettes outside when we were approached by a black gentleman who looked to be in his 50s. He told us that his dad used to kneel exactly where we were standing and shine shoes for pennies as a boy; “Negroes” weren’t allowed inside at that time, the man said, so he had to work outside.  He also told us that for decades right above our heads there was a sign warning that ladies were not allowed inside the bar unless accompanied by a gentleman. It’s fascinating to contemplate the history this place has seen over the years.

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DAILY TRIVIA: Somerville’s “Sister City” is Gaeta, Italy.

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6 responses to “Somerville’s Oldest Pub

  1. great post. I love this pub, for all the reasons you describe. I also love it because my very good friend back home, Deirdre Breanley, it was her uncle who opened the doors way back in the years when he was a very young imigrant from County Sligo, where Deirdre herself is from. I met him once, Joe Branley was his name. He has sicne passed away, but a nice man you would not meet, and I am quiet sure he would be proud of the pub he founded all those years ago.
    Also interesting about the “Nigros” and women being not allowed inside the doors. My other friend Marina at home (who is also good friends with Deirdre), her father owned a pub in Dublin, and his pub was one of the very last in Ireland to obey this strict rule of not allowing women. Marina, of course, did not approve. The doors to this pub have since closed.

  2. Wow, Noel – what an interesting post script – thanks for sharing this history! I didn’t know you once met the original owner; so he sold the pub and went back to Ireland?

  3. Love it. My favorite post. But, I am still partial to our spot at Diva. We need to get A. in the loop on it. I need to grill him on my low concept mp3 scheme.

  4. Just don’t tell Noel. Ooops, I think he’s on to it;)

  5. Back when I used to be into the bar scene, the Sligo was one of my favorites. I’m pretty sure that the eye-pours are still one the best around, as are the prices. I can remember back when the place seriously reeked of cigarette stench, ages ago…

  6. I didn’t see these comments until I was reading your blog again today. The original owner, Joe Branley sold the business and the name about 20 years ago. The new owners kept the name, which is great. Joe never moved back to Ireland. He lived in Medford and has since passed away.

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