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UP ALL NIGHT / SOCIAL CLIMES

Brewing Up a Fine Blend of Irish Charm

March 19, 1995|HILLARY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even before it was Irish Molly Malone's Pub, the bar at 575 Fairfax had history. "There are rumors that this was one of the first pubs to be licensed after prohibition," says co-owner Damien Hanlon, "back when it was known as the 575 club."

Molly Malone's has been in the Hanlon family for 25 years. "My mother, Angela Hanlon, came out from Baltimore with my father, who was an entertainer. She bought the bar basically because she was homesick," Hanlon says.

Angela Hanlon, whose great-uncle was the Irish writer Brendan Behan, quickly made the bar into one of the most traditional Irish pubs in the country.

The walls are dark, covered in Irish memorabilia and art. There are shelves lined with books and, generally speaking, everything that isn't made of wood is green. Except for the beer, which is never, ever green, even on St. Patrick's Day.

"We're more authentic than that," says Hanlon, who now runs the family business with his sister, Sheila.

Beer is serious here.

"We have Guinness, Harp and Woodpecker Cider on tap," says Hanlon. The air has the comforting smell of beer-soaked wood, a scent that makes many wax nostalgic.

"Lots of people who come in from the airport make this their first stop," says Hanlon, referring to the homesick Irish. There is also a large contingent of neighborhood regulars and local hipsters.

On a recent evening the crowd included a guy with a Mohawk and many earrings, looking quaint and retro like an extra from a Stephen Frears movie. His friend was wearing a crocheted skullcap that looked like an antimacassar swiped from his Aunt Bridget's sofa.

But no matter what you think of the population when you walk in the door, after a couple of shots of Jameson's Irish whiskey, all the blokes in the joint start to look like Liam Neeson. If you can get Hanlon to pour you some of the 20-year-old stuff, they may start to look like Ralph Fiennes.

A collegiate guy at the end of the bar smiles winningly. What's he doing here? "I just stumbled in. No, that doesn't sound good, put 'casually sauntered,' I came with my friend Mike here. He's Irish--he has his own bar stool." Mike just grins.

There is live music seven nights a week, with a focus on Irish sounds, traditional and new, though reggae is not unheard of here. Molly Malone's is known as a hangout for the music industry.

"There have been quite a few bands that have been signed by record labels out of here," says Hanlon. "We get a lot of demo tapes."

And how many places in L.A. can you see a woman smoking a corncob pipe? A sign on the wall says, "Dublin, 40 km." Some would say it's closer.

*

Where: Molly Malone's, 575 S. Fairfax. (213) 935-2707.

When: Open until 2 a.m. Live music nightly.

Cost: Guinness, Harp on tap $5 per pint. Jameson Irish whiskey $3 per shot. Cover charge, $3; weekends, $5.

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