The Irish Fades to Orange at Friendly O'Hara's Pub

When you mix green with Orange, it's only natural that things might get a little cloudy.

If O'Hara's were a real Irish pub, for example, the label on the bottle of Old Bushmill's Irish Whiskey behind the bar would be black, not white.

But you can't blame bar owner Gail Hewitt for that. She did bring some bottles of Blackbush--the Irish whiskey to end all whiskeys--home with her from Ireland a few years ago and set them up, ready to serve. Nobody ordered any.

Eventually, she gave up dusting the bottles and switched back to plain old white label, not exactly supreme, but still the Irish whiskey equivalent of a serviceable unleaded gasoline.

"I don't know if it's an authentic Irish place," Hewitt admits. "But it has an Irish influence, and that's what I wanted to provide."

Hewitt, Canadian by birth, Irish by ancestry, opened her pub--named after a relative--19 years ago, just north of the traffic circle in old downtown Orange. Since then the neighborhood has changed, what with all the home restorations and yuppification going on in the surrounding blocks. But O'Hara's has remained the same, a friendly little neighborhood place where pub-crawlers of all sorts can mingle.

"Some places have all business customers, or they're all blue collar," Hewitt says. "We have a mix." And on just about any evening, tie-loosened sorts fresh from the office relax amicably with folks in T-shirts and jeans, tossing darts, shooting pool, playing pinball or just hanging out. The music in the background tends to be a bit loud for comfortable conversation, but nobody seems to mind.

You can get a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee here, although they aren't the biggest sellers. Hewitt says many of her customers don't drink alcohol at all. "It's more of a meeting place. People come in to see their friends, and they may have a soda or coffee instead. We have the non-alcoholic beers, too, but we don't sell that much of them."

In the old days, O'Hara's offered homemade Irish food, such as cabbage rolls and corned beef, but now Hewitt reserves those treats for such occasions as the Orange International Street Fair and St. Patrick's Day.

Arguably the most exciting moments at O'Hara's have been the occasions when its most famous patron, rocker Rod Stewart, has dropped in. "He's been in three or four times," Hewitt says, on occasions when he was in town to attend soccer games at nearby Chapman College.

O'Hara's Pub, 150 N. Glassell St., Orange. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Closed Sunday. (714) 532-9264.

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