When you walked into Tom Bergin's on a Sunday afternoon, through the front door of the fragrant Irish pub and past the half-dozen people screaming at the Saints game on the bar TV, you were likely to come across the restaurant’s true regulars: white-haired guys, wearing sweaters and ties even when it was a bit warm, having lunch with their families the way you suspect their fathers had with them. It was plain, hearty food enjoyed with maybe a pint of Guinness or a well-made Rob Roy -- the kind of cooking we have mostly forgotten about in Los Angeles.
Bergin's has always been decent, comforting and most of all there, a restaurant that had probably not been reviewed in decades before Dominic's chef Brandon Boudet took it over last year. It was a restaurant that Irish coffee-pounding revelers on St. Patrick's Day may not have realized was a restaurant at all (I certainly didn't in my 20s), but which had nourished its community in so many ways since it opened in 1936.
The soaring ceiling of the barroom was papered with cardboard shamrocks painted with the names of regulars -- Bergin's recently paid tribute to one put up in honor of Errol Flynn. Some of the bartenders had been behind the stick since the 1960s. In the bar's lifetime, the neighborhood had gone from a low-rise Art Deco residential district to a high-density area of museums and skyscrapers; the famous Carthay Circle theater, site of so many glamorous premieres, had been demolished in favor of a generic office complex; and the Miracle Mile had boomed, fallen out of favor, and boomed again. The cool darkness of Bergin's was one of the few constants. It was home.
On Wednesday, the Bergin's Facebook page announced that the place would open its doors for the last time on Sunday, July 7, and the reaction was predictable. Many of those commenting on the post blamed the new management, the corned beef and cabbage that suddenly tasted like something -- it had previously been a relic of the steam table of the damned.
Some people mysteriously found fault with some imagined lack of Guinness; some with the new "mixologists." Christopher Buckley posted that it was "a tragedy of Biblical proportions." Others just mourned, or suggested that the community get together to buy it, but the real estate site LoopNet.com lists the sales price as a cool $3.9 million, which is kind of beyond the range of Kickstarter.
It will be sad to see Bergin's go. I will miss the corned beef, the great whiskey selection and the best colcannon in Los Angeles. I will also, as will many of my fellow Angelenos, be slightly closer to sobriety on St. Patrick's Day.