Culver City Mayor Micheál (pronounced Me-haul) O’Leary has opened an Irish pub in downtown Moorpark called Corrigan’s, and he's determined to make it—like his other endeavors—a success.
Okay, you might ask, what makes this pub so Irish? Well, for one thing, O’Leary comes from Dublin and spent many years working in local pubs. He knows a thing or two about the Irish, and as he sees it, the true Irish pub offers something more important than food, games, or beer.
“It’s an attitude,” he explained. “You get a welcome here that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. I want the place and atmosphere to be the attraction.”
The story of how O’Leary landed in Moorpark is quite interesting. He came to New York City in 1987, hoping to build a better future for himself. At that point, the economy in Ireland was not doing well. And, just as when he lived in Dublin, he worked in the bar and restaurant business.
“It was my release,” he said. “I liked being around people.”
Eventually O’Leary moved to Culver City and opened his first Irish pub, called Joxer Daly. It featured a very Irish type of experience: small establishment, Celtic, blues and bluegrass music, and, of course, lessons for Angelenos on how to drink Guinness. More on that later.
His establishment grew and helped in part to spur the renovation of downtown Culver City. It also helped him land a seat on the Culver City Council. He currently serves as the mayor of the city.
O’Leary’s new pub in Moorpark was supposed to be Australian. The original name was Kangaroo Paddy’s.
“I had a friend who was Australian,” he said. “As partners, we came up with the idea and it actually went into escrow. Unfortunately, he was here on, an I visa and learned that because of his immigration status, he couldn’t invest in the project.”
When he lost his partner, O’Leary was in a bind. His salvation turned out to be his accountant.
“I was giving up all hope,” he said, “and I went to see my accountant in San Diego. I told him my story and he said ‘Why didn’t you ask me?’ ”
O’Leary’s accountant and his wife jumped into it. They changed the theme to Irish and the name to Corrigan’s because, well, Irish pubs are what O’Leary knows best.
And he’s determined that it will indeed be a genuine Irish pub. Take for example the instructions he gives on how to serve Guinness, the Irish national drink. According to O’Leary, he’s vowed to hold customers to a standard that must be honored on pain of laughter and humiliation.
“We never serve Guinness by the pitcher,” he said. “It must be served at the correct temperature in the correct glass—a 20-ounce tulip glass at room temperature.”
For O’Leary, drinking Guinness has to come with the right state of mind.
“It’s a meal and it needs to be served in the correct proportions,” he said.
He then demonstrates the correct technique for pouring Guinness from the tap. It’s a three-step process that allows for the head and the stout to properly separate. When he’s finished, there’s also an outline of a clover on the head.
O’Leary has a smile on his face when he finishes. Pub owner, artist, humorist. It’s the type of personality he seeks to infuse at Corrigan’s. He’s also determined to make a go of it here in Moorpark.
“The key is creating the atmosphere. I did it in Culver City 12 years ago when tumbleweeds were blowing down the street, and that’s what I’d like to do here.”
Corrigan’s is at 75 E. High St., the previous location for Jekyll and Hide’s. It’s current hours of operation are 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to midnight on the weekends. For more information call 805-532-1500.