Jennifer Russo

Who doesn’t love an Irish Pub?  A casual place to go grab a pint with friends, listen to some live music, and take in the overall welcoming and unpretentious vibe.  Even better when the bar is owned by a real Irishman and his Irish partners who all know what an Irish pub should look and feel like.

Starting with the name, Boland’s itself is named after Tobias Boland, an Irish immigrant who came to the United States in 1825 and is credited with building the Blackstone Canal connecting Worcester and Providence, as well as one of the buildings of Holy Cross college, among other landmarks. His portrait profile, maps of the railroad, and news article excerpts about Canal Transportation adorn the wall in a thoughtful mural. 

The grand opening event on February 4th packed the bar, which was buzzing with excitement from the moment the doors opened to when they closed for the night.  A formal ribbon cutting ceremony took place with Worcester’s Mayor Petty in attendance (who later enjoyed a pint with Dublin-born owner Stephen “Shuggy” Porter and some patrons).  

“Our goal here at Boland’s is to connect with the neighborhood in a genuinely nice way. Hopefully a local bar that people would feel comfortable to frequent,” says Porter. “We want to encourage all our patrons to make new friends and enjoy themselves along the way. Of course, being Irish helps us connect with the Irish around here – they have been so supportive. I knew there was some Irish history and Irish Americans here but had no idea how much and how many!”

It seemed the whole of Worcester stopped in to check out the new watering hole.  A sunflower bouquet with a “Congratulations” balloon drifted on the edge of the dark wood bar, adding to the warm and cozy atmosphere that was in direct contrast to the cold outside.  

“We’ve really gotten to know the owners and it’s such a fun, friendly spot – great for music with the patio outside in warmer months,” say Chris and Pam Stone, owners of Vintage Pizza.  “These owners just get it. It’s authentic – it has what people want when they go to an Irish pub.  Familiar faces, not cliquey, just a relaxing place to be with friends.”

Smiling bartenders kept pace with orders of Guinness from the centerpiece of the bar – a signature harp-shaped tap, among other local brews such as Bay State Brewing and Penny Pinchers, and festive libations like an innovative Negroni made with Dingle award-winning Irish gin. There was even a delicious looking mule cocktail made with West Cork Bourbon Cask.

“This is definitely the new hidden, or not so hidden, gem in Worcester,” says patron Amy Santom.  “There is great music and it’s a perfect environment with welcoming staff and happy faces.

The bar will have entertainment most weekends and does plan to have some trivia nights soon enough.

“I went here back when it was Rock Bar and the Blackstone Tap before that, so I am really excited that they put something great here,” says Kristen Hershey, who was there with her husband Mike. “It’s so low-key and comfortable – perfect for someone in their 40s, but excellent for the younger crowd too.  We live pretty close and it’s an uphill walk, but totally worth it and so convenient. I expect we will be here quite a bit.”

The acoustics in the space are perfect for both crowds and live music.  Even though the bar was packed to the brim, you could enjoy the entertainment and somehow still hear the person next to you.  Speaking of entertainment, opening day featured the talented Chris Reddy on the guitar with guests singing along and later in the evening On the Rocks took the stage and inspired people to rock out even more. The bar inspires people to introduce themselves and talk. It will never be a sports bar filled with TVs, which is intentional.

“All I could ever want is a beautiful place like this where people can just come and not be glued to their phone or a screen.  Come here to have a great time and great conversation (aka craic) and have fun after a rough day at work.  You’ll always be greeted with a smile and be welcomed here. This is why I love my job,” says bartender Mary.

Boland’s is of course looking forward to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th

“We have been warned to do our stretches to get ready for all the Guinness pouring that day – so we promise to be on our marks.  Feel free to swing by for some pints and some banter!” says Shuggy. 

Boland’s Irish Pub is located at 81 Water Street and is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 2 AM on Friday and Saturday nights.  Be sure to stop in and check it out as it promises to be the next hot spot on the hill.