The Harbour Bar was established in 1872 and was bought by James O’Toole in 1932. It changed hands 81 years later when the Duggan family bought the famous bar in 2013.The Harbour Bar was once both a bar and undertakers, and rumour has it that it is immortalised somewhere in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce is one of many celebrated people who patronised the bar over its long history. Peter O’Toole, when filming nearby in Ardmore Studios, would often drink in The Harbour Bar and donated the famous moose head (a prop from Woody Allen’s What’s New, Pussycat?) as a gesture of gratitude to the owners for making sure he was returned in one piece to his hotel each night. Other icons that have enjoyed a drink at The Harbour Bar include Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Bono, and Brendan Behan.
The Lounge is a comfortable spot in which to enjoy exciting music acts from Wed – Sun (Live Lounge). The stage has been recently renovated and the standard of equipment is top-notch. Music has always been important in The Harbour Bar and it is fast becoming an important venue for new music. The lovely Snug is perfect for a quiet pint and a chat. The Bar is full of character; it plays host to traditional Irish music sessions from Wed – Sat. The cosy Backroom is the ideal place for a toastie by the fire and the Upstairs is where to catch an intimate gig. The Harbour Bar has a covered and heated beer garden for those who want to take in the sea air with their pint.
The bar was voted “The Best Bar in the World” by Lonely Planet in 2010 and is recognised as a pub with an authentic and fun atmosphere and a passion for good music.
The bar has witnessed many changes occur in Bray over the years. The Harbour Bar has always been a popular spot; especially at the height of Bray’s time as a top holiday destination for tourists from around Ireland and Britain in the mid-20th century. Bray is a true seaside town and back then it had all the trappings with paddle boats to rent, cable cars up to Bray Head, oysters and periwinkles for sale on the Victorian promenade and a “banjo man” playing music nightly at The Harbour Bar during the summer.
The bar itself is a testament to its own history and has amassed an interesting collection of antiques and curios over the years; many of which (such as the piano) were donated by customers and people passing through. The owners held on to ordinary objects that have with age become charming insights into the past. Each one of the cash registers from the collection that sits in the Bar was in use at one point throughout the various currency changes in Ireland.
The Harbour Bar was bought by the Duggan family in 2013. They are committed to honouring the spirit and the past of the establishment and ensuring The Harbour Bar continues to add to its colourful history.