Pilar Montero, founder of Montero’s Bar & Grill on Atlantic Avenue, died January 14 at 90.
Until fairly recently she had still come into the bar, holding court from a stool near the front.
After its opening in 1945 Montero’s became something of a home away from home for merchant seamen of many nations, to whom she offered the first drink free. A number of them gave her ship models they had built while at sea, and, as the New York Times reported, 34 of these became part of the bar’s décor, along with a miniature steam engine. Longshoremen also frequented the bar.
With the decline of shipping here, the clientele changed. A more literary crowd, including Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt (who took an apartment upstairs), was drawn to Montero’s gritty atmosphere. A younger set that subsequently started moving into Brooklyn liked the sense of a “dive” so much that New York Magazine took note of it. To drop in on Montero’s became positively chic.
Mrs. Montero was born Maria Pilar Rivas in Manhattan on Dec. 2, 1921. She married Joseph Montero, a Spanish merchant seaman in 1943. He died in 1999, and the running of the bar was soon taken over by their son Joseph.
Pilar Montero is survived by Joseph and another son, Ramon, as well as by a daughter, Josephine, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A joyous celebration of Pilar’s life was held at Montero’s last Saturday.
Jan. 25, 2012