the pat connolly tavern in dogtown photo by david kovaluk

The Pat Connolly Tavern is a St. Louis landmark

Pat Connolly moved to the U.S. from his hometown of Dunmore, in Ireland’s County Galway, in 1927. When Connolly opened Pat Connolly’s Tavern (as it was originally known) at 6400 Oakland Ave. in 1942, the bar was a perfect fit for the neighborhood. In the early 20th century, jobs in clay mining, steel and meatpacking had pulled a growing Irish community from the “Kerry Patch,” its historic North City enclave, to settle in Dogtown. “Dogtown at the time when Pat would have opened this pub up was very much a working-class community,” said Joe Jovanovich, who currently co-owns the bar with his mother (and Pat’s daughter), Theresa Connolly Jovanovich.

In the early 1950s, Connolly installed a kitchen and changed the name of the bar to Pat’s Bar and Grill. “It was meatloaf and spaghetti with red sauce and chicken-fried steak and fried fish,” Jovanovich said, describing that era’s menu as American comfort food. “It had little to do with anything that Pat knew how to cook – he just hired some ladies who came to the table with that skill set.” Jovanovich acknowledges fried chicken was an unlikely signature dish for a pub run by an Irishman, but it became a go-to at Pat Connolly’s Tavern.

The debut of the St. Louis Blues at the nearby St. Louis Arena in 1967 heralded an exciting new era for the bar. “That's when this place definitely entered the broader public consciousness,” Jovanovich said. The pub’s proximity to the arena made it an essential stop before or after a Blues game right up until 1994 when the venue closed for good. “When I was a kid, I very vividly remember Blues game nights here being just bananas,” Jovanovich said. “It was definitely a loss for the neighborhood and a loss for our business when the Blues moved, but thankfully, the place found a way to stay resilient.”

By the time the Blues arrived, however, it was no longer Pat Connolly’s bar. In 1960, Connolly sold the bar to Tom McDermott, one of his bartenders, though Connolly’s family retained ownership of the building. The bar was renamed McDermott’s, although a “Pat’s Bar & Grill” sign remained on display outside the bar for the duration of that period. Jovanovich noted you can probably guess a person’s age based on how they refer to the bar. “There are some folks out there who still call it McDermott’s,” he said.

Jovanovich’s family resumed ownership of the bar in 1980, and his parents, Theresa and Paul, ran the bar, renaming it Pat’s Bar & Grill. Growing up around the bar, Jovanovich gained a keen appreciation for its place in his family’s history. In 2014, when yet another owner’s departure put the bar’s future in question, he and his mom Theresa stepped in to take the reins. “I was motivated certainly by a sense of nostalgia, family history and wanting to see the place prosper and sort of restore it to some former glory,” he said. “I didn't like the idea of the place just like going out of business.”

Jovanovich and his mother began by renaming the bar The Pat Connolly Tavern, in homage to his grandfather. “We wanted to bring it back full circle,” he said. “When [Pat] added on the ‘Bar and Grill,’ he took the Connolly out of the name. We can only guess his motivations for that, but we thought it was only appropriate to put that Connolly back in there. Just to pay tribute to him, and our family, and that Irish immigrant story.”

Those years were a labor of love for Jovanovich, Theresa and their team, driven by the desire to keep the bar relevant while affirming what made it great in the first place. They reworked the menu with an eye on enhancing quality, but many of the recipes for favorite items, including the fried chicken, have been retained. With the help of John Corbett and the Dogtown Historical Society, the Griesedieck Brothers beer mural on the building’s east wall was recreated. Meanwhile, Jovanovich wanted the neon Budweiser sign to be illuminated again. “It wasn’t working when we took over,” he said. “It's been a bit of a cash cow, but it's a prestige thing – it's one of the very few neon signs like that that are left.”

There was another change of ownership in summer 2023, with David Guller taking over The Pat Connolly Tavern. This time, Pat Connolly’s descendants appear to be getting out of the bar game for good, but Jovanovich said they accomplished what they set out to achieve. “I'm just really proud that we kept it going, we got it across that 80-year mark of continuous operation since my grandfather opened it,” he said. “I hope that future operators can keep it going past that 100-year mark.”

6400 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, 314.647.7287,

Editor's note: This article originally ran in May 2023 and was updated to reflect the change in ownership.