The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission will meet today, Nov. 1, at 10 a.m. at Los Angeles City Hall for the first of two possible hearings to decide if the Tom Bergin’s Public House building, located at 840 S. Fairfax Ave., will be awarded historic-cultural monument status.
This initial meeting will determine if the commission will consider the building’s nomination, while a second meeting, at a to-be-determined date if the commission proceeds with the case, will determine the actual status.
“Things are moving on track,” said Ken Hixon, vice president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, the organization that nominated the building with the Los Angeles Conservancy. “The meeting [today] is largely a procedural matter. I think it’s highly likely that they’ll consider our case.”
Tom Bergin’s has a long history spanning eight decades, making it one of the oldest, in the Miracle Mile and Carthay Circle communities. The pub first opened in 1936 as Tom Bergin’s Old Horseshoe Tavern and Thoroughbred Club at 6110 Wilshire Blvd. before moving to its present-day location at 840 S. Fairfax Ave. in 1949.
The building, designed in a Tudor Revival architecture style meant to evoke the Irish countryside, quickly grew to be an icon in the developing city of Los Angeles, serving as the bar of choice for community residents and celebrities over the years such as Cary Grant and Julia Roberts. The pub also became revered for its Irish coffee drinks along with the hundreds of cardboard shamrocks that diners affixed to the walls of the dining area.
“Bergin’s is probably the best known ‘landmark’ in town that doesn’t actually enjoy the protections of official historic monument status,” Hixon said. “Tom Bergin’s plays a very celebrated role in the history of the Miracle Mile.”
The Mid-City West Community Council felt similarly about the importance of the pub, providing financial support to the MMRA and the Los Angeles Conservancy for the nomination.
“The Mid City West Community Council overwhelmingly felt that it was important to participate, along with other community partners, in the funding and the preparation of the historic-cultural monument application,” said Keith Nakata, co-chair of the Mid-City West Planning and Land Use Committee. “This application will preserve a written history of the iconic Tom Bergin’s, a treasured gathering place of the community for over 80 years. From locals to celebrities, everyone felt welcome at this Los Angeles landmark.”
Since the announcement of Tom Bergin’s nomination for landmark status, an overwhelming amount of community members – and others – have vocalized support for preserving the site. According to Hixon, over 650 emails – via a standardized form the MMRA prepared – have been sent to Councilman David Ryu, whose 4th District includes the Tom Bergin’s location, and the Cultural Heritage Commission.
“It’s not just from the Miracle Mile,” Hixon said. “We’re getting people from Manhattan, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Portland, Oregon, sending their support … You know, Tom Bergin’s, it was always there. You could leave L.A., and it would always be there when you return.”
Additionally, earlier in October, the P.I.C.O. Neighborhood Council (People Involved in Community Organizing), which encompasses the neighborhood straddling Fairfax Avenue and Pico Boulevard south of San Vicente Boulevard, gave its unanimous support for the Tom Bergin’s nomination. The council did not respond for further comment.
“Some of these historic-cultural nominations are obscure,” Hixon said. “Having a brand name like Tom Bergin’s helps immeasurably.”
However, despite the community’s loyalty to Tom Bergin’s, the future of the business remains unknown, which, as Hixon said, is what spurred the nomination in the first place. In January, Derek Schreck, Tom Bergin’s current owner, announced that the business would be closing later that month. The pub briefly reopened to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in March, but has since remained closed. Schreck declined to comment.
Nevertheless, Hixon hopes that preserving the Tom Bergin’s building would at least be a start to securing the site.
“I understand the challenges of running a legacy business, but if you save a building, anything’s possible,” he said. “If you tear it down, that’s the end of the story.”
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