The new blood at Tom Bergin’s Tavern on Fairfax may be young and cool, but they treasure the history and tradition of the Irish pub just like a couple of old-timers.
Derek Schreck, 29, the new owner/proprietor at Tom Bergins, loves the pub’s history and sense of community just as much as the many loyal patrons do who were sad to see Bergin’s close last summer. Originally from Las Vegas, Schreck spent many summers in LA and moved to the Fairfax area four years ago, quickly making Bergin’s his neighborhood bar. He now lives a stone’s throw away in the Carthay Circle neighborhood. The new general manger, Jordan Delp, worked at Bergin’s and is thrilled to be back in the shamrock-covered tavern again, working along most of the original staff including Micahel O’dwire, Tom O’Leary, and Leo Sherlock.
Schreck has a real fondness for the bar, and loves to talk of its legend and lore, pointing out historic photographs on the walls. Built by Tom Bergin as a place to hang out with his ‘horse’ friends, it was originally known as “Tom Bergin’s Horseshoe Tavern & Thoroughbred Club” and was located at 6110 Wilshire Blvd where LACMA now stands.
“It became so popular that he wanted to add a restaurant,” Schreck told the Buzz. “Bergin didn’t have the space on Wilshire so he built this from 1945 to 1948, and opened it in 1949. Legend has it they moved the fixtures from the old bar down Fairfax piece by piece. The bar itself was obviously too large and cumbersome to move, so they were going to leave it. A bunch of the regulars got drunk and said ‘The Irish can’t leave a bar behind’ so they carried it down Fairfax! This is still that original bar,” Schreck shared, pointing to a mottled black & white photo on the wall. “This man right here, is the father of one of our regulars. He was one of the ones who carried it. His daughter validated the story, and has a photo of it.”
Schreck is restoring the decor, adding artifacts and photographs accurate to its origins. He loves telling the tales, like the story about President Reagan receiving a Bergin’s shamrock in the Oval Office in 1983 from his secret service contingent who loved Bergin’s. Or that the oval-shaped bar was the inspiration for the TV show Cheers. “The people who created Cheers, not only did they come here regularly, but they were my dad’s two best friends from high school,” Schreck told the Buzz.
The bar will remain as it always was, and the ceiling will stay chock-full with green shamrocks sporting family names. Schreck is adding more comfortable period bar stools, brighter lighting and will reconfigure the windows in the dining room to let in fresh air and sunlight.
Changes to the menu? Schreck won’t release specifics yet, but says it will be pub classics with a modern twist. “I’ve engaged two chefs that are the executives at a very very successful tavern in LA, who will get full artistic license. One of them is Irish, one of them is Jewish. We’re going to have the best corned beef in the city, and some of the best barbecue too,” he said. Bergin’s is one of only a handful of places in LA that still has an active permit to use the mesquite charcoal broiler on site , active for 77 years.
“All our meats and fish will be mesquite broiled right here in the kitchen.” Bergin’s will be sourcing everything locally and seasonally, using family-owned businesses, not big corporate suppliers. All butchering will be done in house. The average entre price will be $15. Tom Bergin’s will start off opening at 5pm with a happy hour, Monday through Thursday. Fridays they will open at noon, and Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am, maybe taking on week day lunches down the road.
The newest element of Bergin’s will be the “The Old Horsehoe Lounge” being finished on the second floor. Designed as a speakeasy lounge, Schreck will be decorating the joint with pre-prohibition memorabilia he has collected. Tucked in under the sloping roofline, the Horseshoe Lounge will have a private bar with a 100 year old brass tap tower from Dublin, a cozy Whiskey Room with comfortable couches, and a wood-paneled salon that will be open nightly or used for private parties and screenings. Schreck doesn’t expect the second floor lounge to be open until January 2014.
Tom Bergin’s will be open by November 30th for the big football games that day (Notre Dame vs Stanford, and USC vs UCLA) with a full bar but limited menu. “We won’t have a full menu till January 15th, but we want to give the people their bar back as early as possible.”
“It’s easy to shine when you’re working with gold,” Schreck said. “This place is an institution. This isn’t an ownership, this is a stewardship. We need to take care of this place for the next generation.” The neighborhood can now let out a collective sigh of relief – our Irish pub will back, better than ever.