By Carol Tannenhauser
When The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel needed a bar where Midge Maisel and Lenny Bruce could commiserate about the hardships of being cutting-edge comics in the late 1950s, the award-winning Amazon show chose Dublin House on 79th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.
You can’t miss the place. It has an amazing sign: a one-story-high, flashing neon harp. “Irish owned and operated for nearly 100 years, the Dublin House was often the first thing sailors docking at 79th Street Boat Basin saw,” according to its website.
“When that thing is shining, the doors are open,” said Timothy Ach, a construction worker, about to enter the bar. “At night and first thing in the morning, it’s always going. That’s the beauty of it, the key to the operation. The harp is always shining.”
Dublin House is actually open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m.; Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.
The long, narrow, wood-paneled room is dark even in the middle of the day. The digital jukebox alternates between 50s, 60s, and 70s music, while soccer plays on several flatscreen televisions above the bar. The back room is for parties and darts. No food is served, but you can bring in. The bar itself is the original from 1921, when Dublin House opened as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
The scene in the show has been a boon for the bar.
“It’s been great for business,” said Nicola Cusack, the daytime bartender, with a beautiful Irish brogue. “This last two weeks, people come in and say, ‘Oh my God, we recognized your sign from the TV show. They sit down and have a drink, then walk around and take pictures. It’s great when they notice the bar hasn’t changed in all the years. Except for the TVs and jukebox, it’s still the exact same.”
At that moment, another location scout entered, looking for a bar with “good character,” she told Nicola, for an upcoming HBO miniseries, called The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, and Donald Sutherland. Nicola gave her free rein to take pictures.
“It’s good for the bar and it’s good for Mike,” she said, with obvious affection.
Mike Cormican is the owner of Dublin House. He was the bartender, then bought it in 2006. He, too, is from Ireland, and speaks with a brogue.
“They came in and took pictures,” he said, of Mrs. Maisel’s location scouts. “About two months later, they called me and said, ‘We like this place, we’re gonna take it.’ It’s pretty profitable. You negotiate a deal with them. You’re not allowed in when they’re filming. I met some of the actors, but you don’t want to push yourself on them. That’s the way I feel about it.”
He is a soft-spoken man, “old fashioned,” he called himself. His flip phone lay on the table in front of him. He doesn’t have an email address. When asked what “sorrows” Upper West Siders share, he said, “I can’t make those comments,” as if doing so would betray a vow.
“People come in, you try to be happy with them, and you treat them as good as you can, respect them, and that’s all you can do. A lot of people come to relax themselves, enjoy the place, and come back and come back. We’re very well known for our Guinness. It’s considered the best on the Upper West Side. People come back for it. I have many loyal customers, who come back, come back, all the time. That means a lot to me.”
What’s the secret to running a successful bar?
“You have to work hard, be here a lot of hours,” Mike responded. “You have to be with people, talk to people, so they get to like the place and whoever’s working here. Nicola’s fabulous. She can’t do anything more. ”
He called the filming of Mrs. Maisel, the “most exciting thing that’s happened at the bar. She’s a nice lady,” he said. “We hope to get her back again.”
Mike has five children and a “very good wife,” but his family extends much further. Eric Clemons, a regular customer explained:
“This is a home away from home,” he said. “You come here a few times and become friends, then, suddenly, you become family.”
“You meet some smart people in here,” Timothy Ach added. “Literary people, doctors, people from Columbia University, and all walks of life. Brad Pitt was sitting in the corner one day. My favorite memory is of the blizzard of 1996. The whole city was closed, but the harp was shining.”
See some of our other Mrs. Maisel coverage: