Irishman in Chinatown

I’ve been a professional musician in Honolulu and on the mainland for nearly twenty years, and have always enjoyed the relative music industry luxury of being part of a “house band.” In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a remarkable artistic renaissance in the Chinatown area, which has been delegated as Honolulu’s official Arts District. Home base for me is O’Toole’s Irish Pub.

Owned by a pair of Boston area transplants, O’Toole’s is one of three Irish pubs operated by the two. They are committed to providing free, live music every night at each of their venues. This means that they support dozens of “house bands” and cater to patrons who seek them out. O’Toole’s Irish Pub is certainly the most authentic Irish pub on Oahu, situated in an historic building on Nu’uanu Avenue, only steps away from the busy waters of Honolulu Harbor. My band has to wait each Saturday night until the Pride of Hawaii cruise ship blows its bone shaking departure horn before we start to play.

The pub is split into two rooms, separated by a spectacular red brick arch, an architectural feature that was part of the historic building’s original construction. It’s easy to imagine mustachioed seafarers and whalers of bygone centuries cavorting under that arch while one gazes into the shimmering waters of the harbor during a lazy pau hana (“done work”) happy hour. The selection of fine Irish brews and spirits is unparalleled in Honolulu.

And while O’Toole’s is a great place to spend an afternoon of sensible supping, the live music featured on the stage each night attracts an eclectic population of regulars. The establishment has become a sort of home away from home for many in the military in Honolulu, men and women soldiers and sailors hungry for live music that transcends the familiarity of their MP3 players. Every “house band” that plays at O’Toole’s enjoys a regular following of eager fans in an out of the service. The talent and hard work of the bands that play there are worthy of the attention paid to their music.

Possibly the best thing about O’Toole’s Irish Pub is the fact that it’s part of the Chinatown Arts District, so it’s easy to plan a night of live music and gallery wandering in Chinatown around a night at the pub. I’d suggest making it a Saturday, so you can catch my Celtic rock band, Doolin Rakes.

O’Toole’s Irish Pub
903 Nu’uanu Avenue

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny