Irish eyes crying with closing of historic pub, Tom Bergin’s

| January 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

RAISE a toast and have a pint of Guinness at Tom Bergin’s while you can.

Irish hearts (biological and adopted) shattered throughout Miracle Mile and beyond when news broke Jan. 16 that Tom Bergin’s Public House was closing its doors the following week. At 5:25 p.m. that day, when I arrived, regulars were filtering in, but within an hour, there was a steady stream of customers coming by the restaurant and bar to have an Irish coffee or raise a pint.

As I sat at my table sipping my Guinness and having a Scotch egg, I overheard several conversations in the packed dining area focusing on the landmark bar’s news.

Later that evening, Larchmont Chronicle publisher John Welborne came in to partake of a pint of Guinness. It was 9 p.m. before a table was available, and then he was informed the kitchen was closed. “We ran out of food,” he was told.

So what happened?

The many fans of the neighborhood local wanted to know why the pub was closing now, after being “saved” last time it closed in 2013.

Derek Schreck, co-owner who runs the pub with his management team of Jason Dechert and Joe Tower, pointed to a number of factors, including the closing of Fairfax Avenue many weekends in a row when Metro did subway construction last year.

While he welcomes the new subway, Schreck said that weekends were the pub’s prime time for business; the Metro work really cut into their revenue. In the meantime, patrons, including regulars, found other places to go. And because the pub was not on Wilshire Boulevard, Schreck noted, Tom Bergin’s did not qualify to receive hardship help from Metro, as was offered to merchants situated along Wilshire.

Despite the initial closing announcement, I learned that night that the bar will continue with limited hours, open only Thursdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. to midnight, until at least St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

“Shock to the system”

“It’s a shock to the Los Angeles system for this place to close,” Schreck said, as well as being a hardship for all his employees. But closing the kitchen now, and having the bar remain open limited hours through St. Patrick’s Day, will allow for patrons to come by and say farewell, and also allow him to pay severance to his employees and help them find work at other venues.

“These are the best employees to have and the best team I could have asked for,” said Schreck. He and his management team run the bar themselves now. In an interview with the “Los Angeles Times,” Schreck said they would “push through as long as we can.” And they still plan to have a big party on St. Patrick’s Day.

One couple, he said, who are in their 90s, met at the bar and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary there. Schreck says that is just one of the many stories he has heard about people who met, dated and brought families to Bergins; some of them even have shamrocks up.

What about the shamrocks?

There are reportedly 6,000 shamrocks on the ceiling and walls of Tom Bergin’s. According to Schreck, at first the shamrocks were put up for Bergin’s friends and regulars. The older shamrocks are in the dining area, and many of them only have last names (albeit familiar neighborhood names), assuming, possibly, that everyone knew who they were.

Later, there was a punch card system — if someone came through so many times, he or she got a shamrock put up with his or her name on it.

Over the years, it has become a rite of passage. If everyone who works at or frequents the pub knows your name, then, so the theory goes, you deserve to have your name on a shamrock plastered to the ceiling.

Schreck, who was a bar regular before buying Bergin’s, has his own shamrock up.

Not surprisingly, Tom Bergin’s served as the inspiration for the TV show “Cheers,” where “everyone knows your name.”


Established in 1935, the story goes that Tom Bergin, a lawyer, drove to a Tudor building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, unlocked the door and tacked a liquor license to the wall. So began Tom Bergin’s Old Horseshoe Tavern & Thoroughbred Club (named for the horseshoe-shaped bar). And the license is now reportedly the second oldest in Los Angeles County. Incidentally, it is also known as the “House of Irish Coffee,” and is famous for that beverage. The neon sign has been up since the 1950s.

The historic tavern, which moved down the street in 1949, has been a regular haunt for many Angelenos, including celebrities Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, John Wayne, Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts.

The original 1951 Los Angeles Rams World Championship banner was given to Bergin by Dan Reeves as a thank-you for hosting the team’s championship dinner.

After 37 years, Tom Bergin sold the tavern to regulars Mike Mandekic and T.K. Vodrey. Chef Brandon Boudet and restaurateur Warner Ebbink were the next owners, and they shut the place down briefly in 2013 for renovations. Schreck re-opened Bergin’s in 2014.

While there will be limited hours for the public, the venue also will be available for filming and for private parties. In addition, the private whisky lounge, Vestry, will remain available to members via reservation.

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