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COVER STORY : NIGHT MOVES : At These Pubs, More Than the Names Are Irish

March 12, 1993|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irish pubs are better in blustery weather. When it's wet outside, the characteristic dim lighting and dark wood aren't so claustrophobic. Stout ales, perhaps too heavy for summer, offer fortitude against the cold.

This is in keeping with the home country, where seasons run damp. But there aren't many such pubs in the normally arid San Fernando Valley. Flip through the March issue of the Irish Times and you'll find mention of only two. So, in the midst of an uncannily stormywinter, you venture to the outskirts of Van Nuys to a place called Ireland's 32.

The pub--named for the island's 32 counties--is festooned with shamrocks and harps. Maps of Ireland hang on the walls. But Irish is not just a wall decoration here. The guys at the bar are talking about their favorite Irish boxer. Alan and Tom, the bartenders, speak with lilting voices.

"There's a bunch of bars with Irish names, but the name alone won't do it," Alan says. "The owners here are Irish. Everybody who works here is Irish."

So they serve black-and-white pudding and brown bread for weekend breakfasts. They sponsor a dart team, a soccer team and a Gaelic football team. Irish bands play from a cramped stage on Friday nights. And, on any afternoon, a number of patrons are likely to be recent expatriates.

"You come in and sit down and the next thing you know, someone's talking to you," said Dermot O'Reilly, a real estate agent who came over from Dublin seven years ago. In this pub, he said, people from both sides of Ireland's religious and political conflicts get along. "There's no talk of the troubles, as we call them. We talk about the troubles of America."

And those are exactly the kinds of troubles you might hear discussed down the road a ways, at Kavanaugh's. An old-style green-and-white marquee announces the pub, which sits next to an Elks Lodge in a neighborhood that isn't what it used to be.

Rock 'n' roll bands play here most nights, and there's a poster of Jimi Hendrix beside the dance floor. There is no Irish beer on tap. But being near the courthouse and police station, the clientele is loaded with--as owner Mylene Kavanaugh says--"lots of cops and lawyers." What could be more Irish?

On a recent day, the gab tended toward legalese.

On St. Patrick's Day, though, Kavanaugh's will be as Irish as they come. Des Regan's band will play all day and night. Step dancers and pipers will perform. Corned beef and cabbage will be served.

As for Ireland's 32, they say they get so many people for St. Patrick's Day that there isn't enough room to serve meals. So their feast is to be held on Sunday. Wednesday, corned beef sandwiches will be served with all the traditional music and fanfare.

WHERE AND WHEN

* Location: Ireland's 32, 13721 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys.

* Hours: 9 a.m to 2 a.m. daily.

* Call: (818) 785-4031.

* Location: Kavanaugh's, 14432 Friar St., Van Nuys.

* Hours: 7 a.m to 2 a.m. daily.

* Call: (818) 989-1191.

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