“I got into the bar business accidentally,” John O’Mara, proprietor of The Body in the Bog pub, explained to me, “there was a coffee shop that had been here for some time, and they notified my wife (who manages the complex on Herndon & Marks) that they were going to be closing. I told her that if she couldn’t find anyone to rent the location, then I would do it. A few months later, I received my ABC license, and opened for business”.
John chuckled at the idea of him getting into the restaurant and bar business, telling me how it all started as we sat at the bar on a warm afternoon day in the middle of August. The Bog, as people in my circle, as well as everyone else I know, call it, had closed a few weeks prior, and he was there condensing his leftover stock into a few different refrigerators that he had, taking most of his glassware home later that day.
“I was actually going to head back to the bay area, and continue working as a project manager. I guess I made the right decision by staying here and opening this place.”
The Bog is a unique fixture in the beer community, having been around long before most other businesses that are beer-focused, specializing in European beer & a few selections of American craft brew. “We were the first in this town to carry Firestone Walker. After a while, everyone carried it, so I only carry it occasionally now.”, he points out the mirrors that he received from them, as well as a few other items of beer merchandise he has still hanging on the walls.
There isn’t really a theme here, no food, television, or loud music playing to take the focus away from one of his many passions. “We opened, and had over 100 bottles of beer, as well as a few beers on tap.” John recollects, “We dwindled that down to about, oh, 60 to 70 beers in the bottle. It’s difficult to move that much beer all the time.”
He had found his passion for beer while being stationed in Germany in the early 1960’s, but that wasn’t where he had had discovered beer. “I was living in Washington DC, and there was this Greek place that had a nice patio, and I would sit down and get a large beer in the afternoons.”
John is a fountain of knowledge in many topics, ranging from the history of different beers & where they came from, to turns of phrase buried deep in the lexicon of English, the meanings forgotten by the people who use them every day. His regulars know that all too well, and it was one of the main reasons why many customers have returned time and time again.
‘Why the bog?’
“Well, the naming of the bar was based on the discovery of old bodies [bog bodies] found in these bogs [swamp like areas filled with mud, not stable enough to support weight of any kind] in Ireland. They have been found all over northern Europe. I like to think of it as having two meanings, though.” He tells me of when he applied for his business license 15 years ago. “There was a young woman there, and she asked me what it meant, and I explained to her what I told you. I also told her that to be bogged down is to become stuck, sometimes in everyday life. In reality, we are all a body in the bog.”
I told him that the first time I had been into the bog, it was actually called a different name, and had a different owner, and it had a very different affect on me than when I visited.
“We were open for 5 years [2000-2005], and then I sold the bog, and it became Moynahan’s. I was tired, and thought that 5 years was long enough to be in this industry.” Besides, he said, he had a garage to clean, as well as other things that he wanted to do. “That lasted a little more than a year, and I received a notice that Moynahan’s would no longer be open.” He looked into the details of what had happened, and he decided that he would start the business again. “It took me about 3 years, but in 2010, we reopened as The Bog”. He remains much of the same as it did when he first opened it in 2000, though. “It seems that I last about every 5 years” he says with a laugh. “Now, I’m really retiring.”
So what next for the bog? “I’ve had a few offers here and there from locals, and regulars; some wanting to return it to a coffee shop, another a wine tasting room. I would like to find someone who will keep it the same, though.” He tells me of how there is a lack of Euro-centric beer establishments, and how the Bog fills that in for a niche clientele. When asked if he would ever come back, he responds no, and with a smile adds “I still have that garage to clean out.”
UPDATE: I’m waiting to hear back from the man himself, but after running into a few beer reps, I have found that O’Mara has sold the bog, and it will be reopening soon as Aisling Bog & Pub.