Longstanding Portland Irish Bar O’Neill Public House, Formerly Known as Biddy McGraw’s, Has Closed

News of the closure came on like a throat punch to many regulars who’d been gathering at the bar since it opened in the mid-’90s.

Biddy McGraw's. (From WW's Parenting Issue, 2016.) IMAGE: Leah Nash and Christopher Onstott.

There's an Irish dirge playing in the heart of every patron who frequented O'Neill Public House.

The beloved dive in the North Tabor neighborhood, also known by its former name Biddy McGraw's, has shut its doors. An announcement was posted last week on the business's website.

"Sadly, the O'Neill Pub has had to close its doors as of January 2019," the notice said. "Check back here, or on our Facebook page, for an official statement soon."

While that statement has yet to appear, and the owners have yet to respond to WW's request for comment,  a sign appeared on O'Neill's front door over the weekend blaming the building's former owner, Phil Ragaway, of raising the rent by thousands just before selling the property.

Ragaway tells WW he sold the building in September to a company called SLC Holdings, but says he's never increased monthly payments for O'Neill in a predatory manner. Instead, he has "been more like a protector" of the pub, putting money into solar power and new overhead sprinklers. (He says the sign was posted by a patron and has since been removed by O'Neill's owner.)

Related: Inside an Illegal Crackdown by the Fire Bureau That Put Portland Nightclubs Out of Business.

"When I left, the tenant had a lease that was in good standing. There were no red flags," Ragaway tells WW. "I don't know what the new landlord has planned there."

News of the closure came on like a throat punch to many regulars who'd been gathering at the bar since it opened on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in the mid-'90s. Both Biddy McGraw's and its founder—publican Patricia O'Neill—would eventually become Old Portland icons.

O'Neill was adored for her colorful behind-the-bar banter while the space itself became known for its live music with singers, guitarists and bands booked nearly every single day of the week. As the loyal clientele grew, Biddy's needed more room and moved to a larger space on Northeast Glisan Street in 2000.

Biddy's was always a little different, and not just because it eschewed the technological trappings of a typical tavern like big screens and video poker machines. To bartender Patrick Bunch, the crowd it drew seemed a little friendlier than most.

"Biddy's was what it was because people of similar persuasions came to expect their particular kind of need for social fulfillment satisfied within its walls," Bunch says. "That resulted in the place being largely patronized by some very smart, very weird, very decent and very cool people. It was a beautiful thing, and while there are similar environments elsewhere, that particular one is gone forever.

"Being out of a job isn't fun, but jobs come and go," Bunch continues. "Environments like that don't."

The new landlords did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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