The long anticipated opening of the controversial Chieftain Pub near Seattle University at 908 12th Avenue is finally here, and it will have its grand opening Friday, August 19th.
Peter Johnson and his crew have been working for over 6 months to transform the old Doc Hastings night club into a new Irish pub for the Capitol Hill community, and the place is a wonderful homage to the past, to Ireland and to its namesake, the Chieftain.
In 2000, in order to deflect charges of racism and native oppression, Seattle University changed its mascot from the Chieftains to the Redhawks. While acknowledging the controversy of the past mascot, the naming of this new pub is just a bow to the past and present. Foremost in Irish-native Johnson’s mind was Charles French Blake-Forster’s account of the Williamite War in Ireland from the perspective of the Galwegians, called “The Irish Chieftains, or a Struggle for the Crown” published in 1872, and of course the six-time Grammy winners and the world’s most popular Irish traditional music group, the Chieftains.
I took a look at the menu and it seems evenly divided between American and Irish food, including Guinness Beef Stew, Shepherds Pie, Bangers and Mash, Whiskey Crab Soup and something called “Irish Nachos” which substitutes fried potato slices for the corn chips.
They’re open starting at lunch, Friday, August 19th and will be open through dinner until the wee hours, and I’m especially looking forward to the 20+ Scotch and Irish whiskey selection, Mac ‘n’ Jack’s on tap and the Three Cheese Bacon Mac pasta. Yum!
Editor’s additional info:
Drawing from his experience with his other two pubs, Finn MacCool’s in the U District and McGilvra’s in Madison Park, Johnson told CHS the Chieftain will likely be more of a combination of the two.
Several Irish pubs take the name Chieftain in reference to Irish clan leaders. However, the Chieftain of Seattle U’s past referred to Chief Seattle. The University switched the mascot to the Redhawks in 2000. According to the Spectator, SU’s student newspaper, some faculty members were not happy with the pub’s name:
“Reinvention aside, the chieftain that people will always associate with Seattle U is Chief Seattle,” said Ted Fortier, an associate professor of anthropology, who supported the change of the university’s mascot from the Chieftains to the Redhawks.
David Madsen, an associate professor of history, felt that the university’s former mascot was an honor to Chief Seattle, but that the portrayal of the chieftain as a mascot was inappropriate. Like Fortier, he finds it difficult to think of any other type of chieftain so close to Seattle U’s campus.
“As long as [the pub] is where it is, it’s going to be associated with the former mascot,” said Madsen.
Johnson said people at the school are excited about the bar, and he hopes it will change what the word “chieftain” means for the school. He understands some people are just not going to like the name, though.
“You’re never going to please everyone,” he said.
Fall classes at Seattle U begin September 21st.