Barfly - O'Hara's
I'm sitting in a popular Westwood bar that is often called an Irish pub, except the bartender is far too attractive and the patrons are far too jovial and the walls have far too many televisions for this bar to live up to any Irish pub expectations. That is, unless you're a college student whose entire alcoholic experience is limited to student housing and bars within walking distance, in which case, yes, they serve Guinness properly and yes, the name of the bar has an apostrophe in it and yes, they play soccer on TV, so it's easy to see how the uninitiated wouldn't be able to imagine anything that's more Irish. I stopped counting the number of people in the bar who probably turned 21 within the last year (all of them) and asked the looker to my left what the appeal was for a bar like O'Hara's - a bar that maintains long lines of academia every day of the week despite offering very little authenticity or ambiance. To which she replied, "What the hell is O'Hara's?" O'Hara's is UCLA's nearest and dearest bar, drawing droves of college students out of their dorms and apartments and into Westwood's streets for late-night stress relief the same way it's been doing since it opened in 1994...as Maloney's. When the bar was rejuvenated four years ago, the name was changed to O'Hara's, but no one seems to have noticed. There were literally customers sitting in the bar, under the O'Hara's Happy Hour Specials banner, telling me to order the sliders while I was there because "Maloney's has the best sliders!"
But no matter what you call it, O'Hara's is the party in Westwood's pants, and everyone's coming. From Veteran to Beverly, and from as far away as Bel Air come UCLA's tired, its poor, its huddled med-student masses, because what O'Hara's lacks in Irish interior design, it more than makes up for with Irish hospitality. Three-dollar drafts and dollar pizza slices bring throngs of thirsty students to Gayley and Weyburn every weekday during O'Hara's 5 to 9 happy hour, and the only thing that trumps ending your week by smashing two-for-one pints on Sundays is starting your week by slamming $4 liters on Tuesdays.
"Tuesday nights are busiest," says bar manager and 12-year O'Hara's veteran Frankie Mortellaro. "We do $2 pints and $4 liters of Bud, Bud Light and Miller Light. It's called Liter Nights - the kids call it Pint Nights. If you get here after ten, you'll be waiting outside in a line of about 180 people." Allow me to correct this estimate: you will not be standing in a line of 180 people, you will be standing in a line of 180 of the hottest college girls on the west coast; a cross-section of the smartest, sexiest young adults assembled into a single, fully-brilliant, barely-dressed column comprised of super short dresses, super tall heels, and dripping with reckless abandon.
Bartender and actress Rya Meyers said the college crowds that flocked to O'Hara's were there for more than its convenient proximity, explaining how the bar has become a Westwood landmark whether or not you know what to call it.
"When you think of ‘that UCLA bar,' it's this one," she said. "It's the reputation. I mean, I went to UCLA, and I knew about Maloney's way before I was old enough to come here."
So it's not really an Irish pub and it's not really called Maloney's, and while it's also not really the only bar in Westwood, it's the only bar that isn't a franchise, isn't more of a restaurant, and isn't commercialized garbage. O'Hara's, in fact, is your very stereotypical college dive bar - which is what makes it such a treasure (if not a necessity) in the Westwood neighborhood: It caters to the up and coming youth of SoCal's best and brightest by offering them a bar that has plenty of televisions, plenty of cheap drink specials, and plenty of talent to take home for tutoring. In short, even though nobody knows the name of the bar, O'Hara's is the type of bar where everybody knows your name (as long as it's "Bruin").