85-year-old Harrington's Bar & Grill shuts its doors for good in the FiDi

85-year-old Harrington's Bar & Grill shuts its doors for good in the FiDiPhoto: Facebook
Jay Barmann
Published on October 02, 2020

A classic Irish bar that has served up pints of Guinness to the downtown set in SF for much of the last century has decided to close up shop, seven months into the pandemic that shut down its business.

Harrington's Bar & Grill (245 Front Street — not to be confused with Harry Harrington's Pub in Civic Center) dates back to Depression-era San Francisco, when the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange still hadn't merged with LA's Oil Exchange to become the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. And for decades the bar's biggest neighbor, between it and the SF waterfront, was the former produce market that operated where Embarcadero Center sits now.

Opened in 1935 by Henry Harrington and his son Leo, the bar sought a diverse (male) clientele of "sea captains, steam ship executives, seafarers, laborers, produce workers, longshoremen, printers, and a broad cross-section of humanity," according to the business's website. And it formed a downtown link to the tightknit fabric of San Francisco's large Irish community, who established bars all over the city in the last century.

It was a fan gathering spot for the Financial District through all the ups and downs of the Giants and the 49ers franchises of the last six decades. The little stage in back hosted occasional live music. And food-wise, it was a burgers-and-fries type of place that well into the 21st century had a "Diet Plate" of fish and vegetables listed under the entrees. 

Right until this year the bar had stayed in the family, and was owned and operated by the third generation, Leo's son Michael Harrington.

As Harrington writes on the site of the closing, "The decision was very difficult to make but with everything we have to do regarding reopening in an unsafe environment for each of us. To wait out this pandemic was financially unreasonable." He adds, "We have had eighty-five wonderful years of a broad diverse mix of patrons we so appreciate."

It's easy to believe that longtime businesses like this one, where the owners presumably own the property as well, would be the ones to survive this pandemic shutdown and reemerge next year much like they always were. But here is an example of a third-generation business owner deciding to pack up and not wait this out any longer.

Likely the uncertainty around how populated downtown offices will even be by next spring or summer also contributed to the decision to close.

"Thank you for your support through the years. Kind regards and good health to you all," Harrington says.