Tom Bergin's | Los Angeles Conservancy
Tom Bergin's. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine / L.A. Conservancy

Tom Bergin's

Operating continuously for 82 years (1936-2018), Tom Bergin’s was one of Los Angeles’ most iconic and longest‐lived bars. Located since 1949 in the distinctive Tudor Revival structure at 840 S. Fairfax Avenue, Tom Bergin’s was a notable legacy business that boasted the second‐oldest liquor license in Los Angeles. SurveyLA identified the Tom Bergin’s as a potential historic resource eligible for listing as a local Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) in January 2015.

The Irish-themed tavern was first opened in 1936 by Tom Bergin, a former entertainment lawyer with Irish roots whose Massachusetts family had operated a number of bars throughout Boston. Inspired by his family’s taverns, Bergin set out “to create an authentic pub, defined by warmth, great food, and exceptional hospitality.”

Tom Bergin’s was a remarkable success from the start and earned a reputation as a favorite haunt of Hollywood celebrities including Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien, both personal friends of Bergin, as well as Cary Grant, John Wayne, Lee Majors, Glenn Ford, Kiefer Sutherland, and Julia Roberts. Loyal patrons were memorialized with a cardboard cutout of a shamrock bearing their name, affixed to the wall or ceiling, which became a decades-long tradition at the tavern; by the time the pub closed in 2018, there were roughly 6,000 shamrocks adorning the interior.

The pub was also known for its signature Irish Coffee, and was one of two iconic West Coast establishments (the other being the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco) that claimed to have first introduced the drink in America.

Tom Bergin’s remained a popular establishment for decades, with Mr. Bergin operating the tavern for 37 years. He retired in 1973 and sold the pub to Mike Mandekic and T.K. Vodrey, who operated Bergin’s for the next 39 years, through 2011. That same year, it was sold to restaurateur Warner Ebbink and executive chef Brandon Boudet, who reopened Bergin’s in 2012 with refurbished interior spaces and a new menu, though it closed once again in 2013 after failing to attract enough customers.

Bergin’s last operated from January 2014 through March 2018 under the ownership of actor and longtime patron Derek Schreck, and remains closed today.

Tom Bergin's is one of the oldest-surviving bars and legacy businesses in Los Angeles, reflecting the broad history and culture of the city. It is also significant for its architecture and distinquishing characteristics of the Tudor Revival style, particularly rare as applied to a commercial building. 

Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

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