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LA's oldest Irish bar has big plans for St. Patrick's Day — and you're invited

Tom Bergin's Irish Pub, one of the oldest bars in Los Angeles, opened in 1936.
Tom Bergin's Irish Pub, one of the oldest bars in Los Angeles, opened in 1936.
Courtesy Tom Bergin's Irish Pub

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Do you feel lucky, Los Angeles?

Tom Bergin's Irish Pub, established in 1936, will host its annual St. Patrick's Day festival tomorrow.

Bergin's has been the premier place to celebrate all things Irish since Tom Bergin opened the bar on Wilshire Boulevard at the urging of his friends, including actors Bing Crosby and Pat O'Brien.

Shortly after opening the bar at what is now the site of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bergin decided he needed more capacity, according to Bergin's current owner, Derek Schreck. 

It was immediately a smash hit, and [Bergin] wanted more space, so he selected the plot of land that we're on now, just after the war, and started construction on a building where he could move the interior of the original location into the new building and still have room for an added second floor and a dining room. And so this place has been open, at this site, since Christmas of 1949.

Schreck purchased the bar in 2012 in what can be best described as an impulse buy.  

It was almost a Pavlovian response. I happened to be sitting at the bar when they announced to staff that they were going to close at the end of the week. And, maybe one toke over the line, I said, "Well, I'll take it." 

But Schreck is happy he bought the bar in which he drinks.

I spend quite a lot of time here, and the people that we've put together as staff have become almost family. So, I'm usually foudnd at this spot because ... these are the people I prefer to hang out with. 

Every March, Bergin's hosts a 20-hour St. Patrick's Day festival. The party begins at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning and will feature indoor and outdoor options, with a capacity of 1,000 people:  

Capacity at the festival is about 1,000 people, but Schreck says that because turnover is high, Bergin's was able to host 12,000 people over the course of last year's event. 

A few months ago, reports surfaced that Bergin's was set to close its doors, causing concern among many of its patrons. But, in fact, Bergin's was merely reducing hours and closing its kitchen for financial reasons. Schreck cited ongoing neighborhood construction as the main culprit, but he isn't worried about the bar's ability to stay open in the future. 

The nice history of Bergin's is that every opportunity it had to go away, somehow the spirit of Bergin's kind of kept going, and it's always found itself in the hands of someone who loves it. So, I'm optimistic for the future. 

Tom Bergin's St. Patrick's Day Festival 

When: Saturday, March 17, 6 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Where: Tom Bergin's, 840 S. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036