With its name, Uisce's, (pronounced ish-kahs), which is Gaelic for water, its beer selections of European imports and its native Irish owner, 1319 Commercial Ave. is about as authentically Irish as it gets in Bellingham. Even the bathroom doors are labeled in Gaelic, causing problems for even the mildly intoxicated.
A coat of arms hangs over the fake, but still inviting, fireplace. Framed immigration papers sit on the mantel; they are the owner's, from Dublin, and he still looks exactly the same. The gleaming hardwood bar with brass covers for the taps is apparently the longest bar in Bellingham, according to Logan, the bartender. A large TV shows ESPN and three men throw darts at the end of the room. Red curtains hide the bathroom doors from view.
Despite the fact that there are only about 12 people out tonight (it's a Monday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day) everything looks better at Uisce's. Perhaps it's the buttery light or the Logan's white shirt and tie. The clientele all seem better dressed, better groomed, and more attractive than the regular Bellingham fare. I am assured that tomorrow there will be people out in droves for Trivia Night, which starts at 8 p.m. My friend recounts that table space is limited and the bar was full when he arrived at 7:30.
We sit down and order pints of Newcastle and Stella Artois. It's $5 dollars for an Imperial Pint, which is larger than the standard 16 ounce American version—even the pints are bigger here—with complementary pretzels and mustard. Budweiser is available, but it's only served in bottles and, fitting to the swanky-ness of the bar, it's kept out of sight, in the back of the bar.
Later on I order a mixed drink, which Logan charges $4 for. We find the whiskey and scotch menu, which is the only one I have ever seen in town. Johnny Walker Blue Label comes in at $35 a shot.
Thinking that this menu is probably what most differentiates Uisce's from the rest of the Bellingham bar scene I decide to force my friends to plunge headfirst into the world of scotch. We get three shots to split, all near the bottom end of the barrel for $8 apiece. The Glenmorangie Portwood and Oban both taste like a mixture of campfire and burning. At Logan's recommendation we try Laphroid which he warns is more for a connoisseur than three 20- something's killing time. My one friend described it as tasting like new shoes; my other friend compared it to burning rubber, if burning rubber wasn't a bad thing.
We finish off the night by making Logan tell us Uisce's best drunken patron story. He describes how a man, after selecting the Pogues (how appropriate) from the jukebox, ran and jumped onto the back of an unsuspecting friend, only to be thrown across the bar into a table and chairs. He stood up and yelled at the entire bar about the frustrations of life before bursting into tears and running out.
I try to envision this chaotic scene in my head, but it just doesn't mesh with the expensive pints and the well dressed women sitting to my right. A couple kisses in a couch situated in front of the fireplace. When Logan brings the bill, I feel obligated to tip more than my usual 15 percent. Uisce's atmosphere has made me feel glamorous—as if I had money to spend.