The new Chieftain Pub opens on Capitol Hill

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.

This new Irish pub will feature Happy Hour all day Monday and Tue-Fri 3-6pm and will have special events such as Tuesday night Trivia contests, Thursday Karaoke and Saturday nights live music.

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.

18 thoughts on “The new Chieftain Pub opens on Capitol Hill

  1. The school changed the mascot in 2000. None of the current students there have ever heard of it. I think the history professor underestimates our current culture’s short term memory focus. More importantly, our culture’s lack of a good long-term memory.

    I.E. This is a non-issue.

  2. This is a private business on private property, and the owners have every right to name it what they want.

    Sounds like SU has gotten more and more PC as times gone by.

    I take offense that my Irish/Northern European heritage that includes the word Chieftain is being stolen and stomped upon by these do gooders on campus. Hands Off my heritage. This bar is named because the owners wanted to celebrate Irish history. Stop trying to PC lawyer it out of existence.

  3. Yah. I have lived in Seattle for just under 4 years. I had never heard about SU having an old racist mascot name until now. And I live right around the corner from SU and use their track.

  4. Popped in after work yesterday. They indeed have Magner’s on tap. Good Guinness, too, which is kind of hard to come by around here…

  5. As an SU Alum (2yrs as a chieftain, and 2 as a redhak)I remember one of our cafeterias was called the chieftain, then subsequently the hawks nest. Welcome back, chieftain. (now with beer!)

  6. I stopped by Chieftain tonight, and talked to Peter Johnson, did some business on Cap Hill then came back for a beer. The fat, bald bartender said to me, when I asked him about their advertising, that they, and I quote, “prefer to cater to a younger crowd, preferably from Seattle U” with a look of contempt on his face so clear that it could not be mistaken to mean, “please don’t come back; you’re not the clientele we want”. My 50 something year old self drank my beer and left. To Peter and your fat, stupid bartender – think of me and my large group of 50 some year old friends, who frequent such places on weeknights and spend typically $50 a person and tip at least 20%. Think of us when you’re tired of students puking in your restrooms, skipping out on checks and leaving paltry tips. Think of what your fat, stupid, ugly bartender said to me, and wish that you had OUR business on those cold winter nights, when students are broke or studying for exams. Think of us when you realize you alienated a clientele that could have helped your business thrive. I love the 20 somethings. Too bad you have so little respect for the crowd that really butters the bread of Seattle businesses.

  7. ‘The fat, bald bartender said to me, when I asked him about their advertising, that they, and I quote, “prefer to cater to a younger crowd, preferably from Seattle U” with a look of contempt on his face so clear that it could not be mistaken to mean, “please don’t come back; you’re not the clientele we want”.’

    You sure you’re not overreacting? Let’s see, you “asked him about their advertising” and he answered by telling you about their target clientele. Sounds perfectly normal to me. As far as whether or not their was a “look of contempt” and whether said look could be “mistaken” or not to imply they don’t want your business is completely subjective.

    Judging by your long, completely off-the-wall, and grammatically correct post, you are likely a middle-aged, educated, hippy-ish, typically passive-aggressive native Seattleite. I noticed how easily you took offense by his statement, finished your drink, paid for it, and hurried back to your house to post a strongly-worded, anonymous comment on the internet. If something like what you *claim* happened to me, and it pissed me off so much, I would have told the guy to fuck off and walked out WITHOUT paying.

    I’m pretty sure you’re either an easily offended, passive-aggressive asshole, or a liar. It’s just hard for me to believe a self-styled “pub” would purposely offend a nice, paying customer…

  8. First of all, why are you talking to the bartender about marketing? You should be talking to the owner or bar manager. From the picture you paint, you sound to me like the marketing equivalent of a used car salesman. I picture you as a (as you say) 50 something in a worn plaid suit with a desperate smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes trying to sell something, ANYTHING.

    I agree with everything SarntLee said.

  9. “The Chieftain” is the best burger in town! Great addition to the neighborhood and I love the Irish heritage reference. Best success to Peter and the crew! Hope you’ll be a hvaen for years to come. Looking forward to “Trivia Night” on Tuesdays, too! Beware!

  10. Here are some notes on the history of this space, former location of Doc Hamilton’s, from Paul DeBarros’s “Jackson Street After Hours”:

    Doc Hamilton’s Barbecue Pit, on 12th Ave across from where the Seattle University stands today, was the most famous of the prohibition hangouts, Seattle’s equivalent of the Cotton Club. Doc opened his first speakeasy at 1017 1/2 E. Union, and later operated The Ranch, on highway 99 just north of the King County line. The Pit was elegant. “Limousines lined the curb out front, while Seattle’s social elect, including the mayor, ducked in and out of the club. Downstairs was the action — roulette and an all-night dice game. Should there be a raid, the Barbecue Pit was prepared. A complete alarm system of bells, bars, and pulleys, snaked through the building. A button convenient to the cashier at the lunch counter was wired to a buzzer at the triple-barred doors of the cabaret basement.

  11. @GoMeat – So let’s see, you agree with everything SarntLee said, though you picture me as ” a worn plaid suit with a desperate smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes trying to sell something, ANYTHING” whereas SarntLee sees me as “middle-aged, educated, hippy-ish, typically passive-aggressive native Seattleite.”

    Hmmm, I guess you agree but you disagree. I picture you as not too smart.

    @SarntLee – definitely not a liar, though some think I’m an asshole. But then, isn’t there someone in the world who think you’re an asshole too? I mean, I do. So there you go. None of us is without our critics. And oh by the way, would you have preferred that I wrote a grammatically incorrect post? What does that have to do with anything?

    The truth still stands – the fat bald bartender told me to get lost, in as many words, and I think it’s a huge mistake to alienate a well-to-do clientele.

  12. I was really excited for a new, local and seemingly hip Irish pub, but was beyond disappointed when I walked in. It’s as stark as can be, and you walk down a ramp into a what feels like a VFW hall. I could potentially get past that part, but the acoustics are truly horrendous. It ws SO loud and hard to hear ourselves, and that was with about 15 people in the place. Hard concrete floors, high (bare) ceilings, and not so much as a seat cushion to absorb the sound. OUr ears literally hurt from the noise, and not even 2 drinks could numb it. We all felt nervous and jittery for the duration of our visit.
    TOTAL BUMMER, because the location is great.

  13. The alleged racism of the name is bullshit. Chief Seattle was a great historical figure and the school (as well as the pub) were honoring him.

    How is it that “the Seattle University Chieftains” doesn’t fly, but “Washington Redskins” is a-okay? The fact that that football team still exists

    Besides, redhawk isn’t even a real bird.

    And there was a Sioux chief named Red Hawk anyway, that’s what i find most hilarious.

    As an SU student i’m looking forward to trying out the pub, though.