“Donahue’s” was a highly popular restaurant and pub that stood at the corner of Free and Center Streets, a site now occupied by the Asylum, a nightclub. About 1920, Thomas M. Donahue (1875-1955) opened a cigar shop here and by the late 1920s he and his brothers John E. and Timothy L. were operating a grocery store. They also were selling liquor on the sly and during Prohibition they were raided at least once, according to Hal Boyle, a Portland newspaper columnist.
Boyle recalled that one day in 1933 government agents charged the Donahue brothers with “violating the National Prohibition Law by selling or possessing for sale any contrivance, preparation or utensil intended to be used in making alcoholic liquor unlawfully.” Three or four hundred people gathered to see the goings-on and after the federal agents loaded a one and a half ton truck with malt and hops, they escorted the Donahue brothers away. The crowd cheered the brothers and many were quite happy when they “got off easy” in the court the next day, this being there first offense.
Boyle also remembered “everything was always above board at Donahue’s. Patrons sat in booths and were expected to conduct themselves as gentlemen. If they didn’t, out they went, usually headfirst, and they were never allowed to come back again.” Politicians and business leaders frequented the place and many sought advice on which horses to bet on at the time, as the Donahues “had good horse sense.” (See The Best of Boyle, Harold Boyle, Guy Gannett Publishing Co., Portland, Maine, 1980, pp. 46-48),
Besides making their own brew, which was a favorite among many a Mainer, Tom Donahue was also “widely known for an Irish mustard dressing he concocted.”
The Donahue Brothers restaurant operated from the 1920s until the 1960s. John E. Donahue retired as the proprietor in 1964, and bartender John T. Donahue (1907-1965), a nephew, and his wife Ellen became the owners. Mrs. Ellen E. Conley Donahue ran “Donahue’s Restaurant” until her tragic death in July 1971, when she was found robbed and strangled to death in her home in South Portland.
Timothy L. Donahue (1891-1957) was an outstanding football and baseball player at Portland High School and later a football referee and amateur boxing director. He was also employed by the Chamber of Commerce and as a salesman before entering the restaurant business. Tim also was a court crier and active in Democratic circles, as well as the Knights of Columbus. A good friend, John Ford, was said to be a cousin. His son, Timothy L. (1923-1984), was a budget director for 20th Century Fox for over thirty years and died in Burbank, California.