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Approaching 20 years in service, Auld Dubliner is an immigrant’s ode to both Long Beach and Ireland

Approaching 20 years in service, Auld Dubliner is an immigrant’s ode to both Long Beach and Ireland

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This is a part of Flavors of Long Beach, a month-long celebration of local food from Brian Addison, James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa) and Long Beach Living, with stories, events, dinners and more.

There is something distinctly special in regard to Long Beach’s OG Irish Pub, The Auld Dubliner.

It goes beyond its incredibly odd location—smack dab in the middle of Conventioneer Central, smashed between theaters and corporate food like Islands and California Pizza Kitchen.

It goes beyond the step-inside-and-you’re-removed-from-Pine-Avenue vibe. (A vibe, mind you, that was designed in Ireland and imported into the space for the build out.)

It goes beyond the fact that locals and “annual locals”—conventioneers who, brought to Long Beach annually because of a convention, named so by the workers of the Dub—both enjoy the place.

“I really just wanted what I had back home here—it’s really as simple as that. I couldn’t find a place in the country that could pour a proper Guinness and I wanted to bring that to the people I began calling neighbors because I believed they would appreciate it as much as I do.”

-David Copley, co-owner of The Auld Dubliner
The Auld Dub is a space where the beauty of immigration is met with the opportunity America has (or, at least, has for some) and how that can make a local environment flourish.

And the realness of that opportunity is something co-owner and founder David Copley is not remiss to directly address continually, despite having arrived decades ago.

Though Copley admits he emigrated “for surfing more than politics or philosophy,” he said he has learned to appreciate the role immigrants play in creating American culture as well as the challenges they have always faced.

The interior of Auld Dubliner is both a product of design and time—but time has turned it into a space unlike any other. Photo by Brian Addison.
“I was extraordinarily fortunate—and I want to emphasize that: extraordinarily fortunate,” Copley said, “I had walked into [immigration and naturalization services office] with nothing: no notes, no lawyer—and in all honesty, I was somewhat jovial about the whole thing. What changed was when I was in that waiting room, looking at hundreds of people. I don’t say this lightly and I really don’t read too much into situations but I say this with all earnestness: I think it was a matter of life and death for many people in that room. If they were sent back home, they’d likely die.”

This particular story essentially anchors what The Dub represents—that immigration, none the matter from where, is an important part of American culture—and that the celebration of cultures worldwide can only be achieved if those celebrations come from the people who directly represent those cultures.

The Shepard’s Pie remains one of The Auld Dubliner’s most popular dishes while also one of its most traditional. Photo by Brian Addison.
Copley’s citizenship allowed him to freely explore the country with privilege—and with that mobility, he hit a point where he realized: Few, if any, in the United States could properly pour a Guinness.

“I miss the pubs and I missed the Guinness—and by that, I mean a properly poured Guinness,” Copley said. “In my years as a nomad, I would often—rather vocally—express my distaste for the treatment of Guinness.”

Copley’s constant and vocal disdain for the treatment of Irish culture (and specifically beer) throughout his new home would permit his friends at Limericks, the Naples pub that is now home to KC Branaghan’s and where Copley worked, to call him out: If you’re so disappointed, do it better.

Whiskies have always been an epicenter of The Auld Dub’s culture and offerings. Photo by Brian Addison
This particular story essentially anchors what The Dub represents—immigration, none the matter from where, is an important part of American culture—and that the celebration of cultures worldwide can only be achieved if those celebrations come from the people of those cultures themselves.

And the opportunities that were in front of Copley were hard to pass: The Pike was being entirely redeveloped

“Business-wise, quite literally, the only reason we are here is because in 2003, when we were planning it, Downtown Long Beach was the only area that permitted live music,” Copley said. “An essential part of the Irish pub and the atmosphere of it is live music. There were other places but the only place we could open without facing a huge battle was Downtown.”

The Auld Dubliner’s fish and chips—arguably the best in the city—have remained on the menu since opening day. Photo by Brian Addison.
And the opportunities that were in front of Copley were hard to pass: The Pike was being entirely redeveloped—a “slate of blank dirt,” as he describes it—and in order to create precise what was in his head, DTLB was the sole place to do it.

“Business-wise, quite literally, the only reason we are here is because in 2003, when we were planning it, Downtown Long Beach was the only area that permitted live music,” Copley said. “An essential part of the Irish pub and the atmosphere of it is live music. There were other places but the only place we could open without facing a huge battle was Downtown.”

Books, break-offs, brick: The Auld Dubliner’s interior brings the warm of Irish pubs to the West Coast. Photo by Brian Addison.

At the time, Pine Avenue was undergoing one of its many makeovers—it was shortly after Mum’s became Smooth’s (in the space now home to BO-beau’s) and an attempted influx of investment, to be repeated the following decade, was in tow—but The Dub has become a conundrum of sorts.

While The Pike continues to be a divisive subject—from those that saw the glory days of the Pike as an amusement area before Disneyland and Knott’s took over to the residents who feel the constant investment in the area is misguided—it is rather remarkable that The Auld Dubliner, squished amongst a seemingly ever-changing neighborhood of corporate brands, has managed to become a staple.

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And a staple among locals and, as previously mentioned, “annual locals,” the conventioneers who have come to find something to look forward to in their convention travels (which saw a major shift thanks to the two-year stretch of 2020—yes, 2020 is comprised of both 2020 and 2021).

A line cook prepares a serving of Shepard’s pie to be sent off to a table at The Auld Dubliner. Photo by Brian Addison.

 

And the connection with its patrons runs particularly deep for The Auld Dub: While the annual trips have obviously been put on hold given the pandemic, each year, Copley and his crew invite select patrons to partake in a trip to Ireland.

The trip is, of course, fun: As long as you are at the bus at the times of departure, you are genuinely free to wander where you want.

But the trip also represents Irish culture and food itself: The history of Ireland is wrought with struggle in a place that is rich in resources. For decades, Ireland remained removed from a Europe that saw economic growth on a level never before seen—and, in the words of Copley, “We were so poor that even our own resources had to be sold.”

What it resulted in a place that, though resource-heavy, particularly in culinary goods like dairy and seafood, its own citizens rarely if ever saw that richness.

However, that has seen a massive shift over the past three decades: Immigration to Ireland has increased, investment has increased along with it, and Irish natives—exploring other countries, cultures, and culinary schools with their new economic ability—have brought home with them a new set of not just skills, but more importantly, the freedom to use their country’s own resources.

It has resulted in a renaissance in Irish cuisine—and these Auld Dub tribal trips are part of discovering those innovations and shifts so that the menu here in Long Beach can reflect that evolution.

“Of course there is the food that is a staple—fish and chips and what not,” Copley said. “But it’s really beautiful to see pubs offering fresh oysters, razor clams—you name it. And we want to reflect that here.”

But honestly: Don’t skip out the fish and chip and Shepard’s pie—yes, yes, I know, they’re typical and have been there forever but honestly? They’re the best versions of it in the city.

The Auld Dubliner is located at 71 S. Pine Ave. in DTLB.

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