Bartenders poured their last drinks, musicians sang, people danced and patrons guzzled beer into the night Sunday as they celebrated the final day of one of the Old Port’s most popular watering holes.

Dan Steele, the owner of Brian Boru pub at 57 Center St., announced last week that he was permanently closing its doors at 1 a.m. Monday.

As patrons surged around the bar Sunday evening, Steele leaned against a wall and sipped beer. Even though the place was mobbed, people kept stopping by to shake his hand and wish him well.

“Dude, thanks for all the great times. We’re going to miss it,” said one bearded patron as he headed for the exit.

“These people, they’re the ones who made this place,” Steele said. “This place created memories. It’s a memory machine. If someone can find a place like this, call me because I’ll need a place like this to go to.”

Steele said he has no idea what the future holds for the Center Street building. He’s getting out of the business because he needs more time to spend with his family and to simply rest from working what seemed like endless hours. He’s had a grand total of four days off this year.

Founded in 1993, “The Pub,” as it has been called by regulars, had operated 365 days a year in Portland’s Old Port ever since. The distinctive, two-story, red brick building with a toucan painted on an exterior wall has long been a popular gathering place for an alcoholic beverage or social gathering. It’s located within a few feet of the Cross Insurance Arena.

Its outdoor deck on the second floor offers panoramic views of downtown Portland as well as Portland Harbor. Brian Boru has long been a favorite place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and was known for Thursday barbecues, bands, and Irish music.

On Sunday night, the deck was at capacity and an upstairs lounge adjacent to it was filled with people dancing to rhythmic music played by a disc jockey. Downstairs, at the bar, the drinks were flowing. Steele apologized for having run out earlier in the day of the pub’s staple beer, Guinness, the dark Irish stout.

Steele told MaineToday magazine three years ago that Brian Boru was founded by Irish brothers Feargus and Justin O’Reilly and their friend Laurence Kelly. Steele joined the business a year later and has served as its sole proprietor. The neighborhood pub was named for a 10th century Irish king. It always offered a wide array of locally crafted beers and imported beers, from Allagash and Shipyard to Guinness.

Jeanne Hulit, a loyal patron, said people don’t understand how difficult it is for someone to operate a private business. Between ordering supplies, scheduling workers and managing a restaurant, it can drain a business owner.

Hulit praised Steele for hanging in there as long as he did and giving Portlanders a special place to hang out.

“It is going to be a loss for the city, but every great place has its time and its place,” Hulit said.

David Price, a U.S. Marine, has been coming to Brian Boru for 26 years. He said he’s met people from all over the world there, of every sexual orientation and ethnic background a person could imagine. Price said the pub and the people who visited were like a second family.

“We’re going to miss this place, but the memories will carry on,” Price said.

CHERISHED MEMORIES

Earlier in the day, Troy Bennett, a Portland-based photographer and folk musician, strummed a guitar in a foot-stomping rendition of the old Irish tune “Finnegans Wake.”

Bennett grew up in the area. Before he was 21, he would sneak up to the windows and listen to the music he loved from outside. Then, for two decades, he played with Rakish Paddy, an area folk band.

He caroused there. He held a friend’s wake there. He found love there.

“I met my wife here,” Bennett said. “We had our first kiss upstairs.”

Bennett was not the only regular to have found a spouse at Boru.

Jeff and Jodi Powell of New Gloucester said they met 19 years ago, introduced by friends at the pub.

“Coke or Pepsi?” he asked. She said Pepsi; the rest is history.

Nearby, Ari Gersen listened to the lilting tunes with perhaps Boru’s youngest patron, 5-month-old Asher, in his arms.

His wife, Breana, said the pub had been her introduction to Portland when she moved here, in 2012, from Vermont.

“Every time I came here, someone was looking out for me, making sure I had a good time and was safe,” she said.

Ari Gersen owns Longfellow Books, another landmark Portland business known for its staff selections, author talks and foster cats.

Gersen noted that many longtime establishments had closed in recent years; Longfellow, however, won’t be another.

“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

However, Silly’s restaurant, a fixture in Portland’s East End, announced last week that it will be closing Sept. 1. Owner Colleen Kelley said the Washington Avenue restaurant would close after 31 years, noting that there were several factors that went into her decision.

Kelley said she needs more time to take care of her father and that her business model doesn’t fit in with a hipster food city like Portland. Silly’s was known for its eclectic menu and funky decor, from birdhouses to bumper stickers.

Another Portland business, Lolita, a worldly Munjoy Hill bistro and wine bar, announced earlier this month that it would close Sept.2. Its owners, Guy and Stella Hernandez, said they were leaving the restaurant business to spend more time with their family.

‘A FANTASTIC RUN’

Steele told the Portland Press Herald on Friday that he was ready to move on, and grateful to have served so many patrons at Brian Boru, and for so long.

“We have had a fantastic run, and fantastic employees,” Steele said.

Outside on the deck during the day Sunday, Tracy Cote of Gray sipped what she said was Boru’s last pint of Guinness.

She and her friends have been coming to the pub on St. Patrick’s Day for 13 years. And whatever becomes of the property afterward – even if it becomes a parking garage, as some have speculated – they plan to keep on coming.

“Come March 17, we’ll be there first thing in the morning, with a Guinness,” she said.

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