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NIGHT LIFE

1739 Public House's pizza promotion

Offering free slices for happy-hour tipplers has been a hit with customers at the Vermont Avenue eatery.

February 27, 2009|Jessica Gelt

"People don't usually turn down free pizza," says Sara Dillan, the sprightly bartender in cutoff jeans shorts at a new Los Feliz bar called 1739 Public House.

The pizza Dillan speaks of is thin-crusted, moistened with tangy tomato sauce and sprinkled liberally enough with gooey cheese. An individual pie is served on good-sized dinner plates free to anyone ordering alcohol between 3 and 7 p.m. weekdays.

Needless to say, the pizza ploy seems to have worked. The bar, which is aiming for an English pub-type vibe but instead hits an odd decorative note that could best be described as "mod French tavern," attracts a steady stream of hungry happy-hour drinkers. Most people approaching the long, lacquered red bar use similar, nonchalant tactics: They eye the row of beer taps (40 total, including Delirium and Chimay), pretend to study the menu, order a drink, clear their throats and say, "I guess I'll take the free pizza."

Then there is the overtly joyous approach employed by those formerly unaware of the deal. "Oh, my god! Free pizza! I need free pizza," exclaimed one scarf-wrapped girl upon arriving at sundown on a recent Wednesday night. "Jacket, no jacket, jacket, no jacket," said another, trying to gauge the large room's temperature before looking up and squealing, "Pizza! Pizza!"

During these golden happy hours, free pizza builds good will and spurs camaraderie. It also causes customers to drink more.

Multiple $12 Grey Goose martinis are ordered by a group of giddy, freshly showered young women. A row of men, not so freshly showered, sticks to beer. A pack of cards comes out and Dillan teaches an easygoing couple a game she calls "palace." The place rings with indie rock circa summer 2005 (Dillan programmed Kings of Leon into an iPod and it crafted a playlist for her using its "genius" function).

Night sets in and the bar's circular red cloth booths and long tables begin to fill up with people participating in that evening's pub quiz. By 9 p.m. nearly every table is taken.

1739 Public House is co-owned by Franck Alix and Jessie Singh. Singh also owns the adjacent Cuban bar and restaurant Cuba de Oro (which used to be called Cuba Libre), and 1739 shares a glass door and a bathroom with that much different space. Alix, who also owns the 3rd Stop bar, says that the idea of a pub as a low-key, low-cost neighborhood gathering place is trending back around because of the sputtering economy.

Indeed, most of the food on 1739's menu -- including fish and chips, burgers and salads -- is under $9. All draft beer goes for $6, and wine by the glass for $5. From Mondays through Wednesdays, PBR is $3 all night long, which is kind of funny since the rest of the week it's $6, just like the Chimay. Dillan calls this pricing "the great equalizer." On weekends, 1739 offers brunch items like eggs Benedict and waffles for $11 and throws in a free bloody Mary for good measure.

Those who live in the area seem pleased with this new addition to Vermont's restaurant row.

"The neighborhood didn't really have something like this before," says 27-year-old Craig Massie, who sat with a group of friends near the large front door on trivia night. "It's got a bunch of draft beers, its unpretentious."

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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1739 Public House

Where: 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.

When: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays;

11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Prices: Draft beer, $6; burgers, sandwiches, entrees, sides, $3 to $9; brunch, $11

Contact: (323) 663-1739

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