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The Old Scottish Pub That Found a New Life in California

An old Scottish pub has been given a new life in the US, at the hi-tech headquarters of California health firm.

The Art Nouveau interior of St Mungo Vintners – with its dark wood, stained glass and brass fittings – was saved by an antiques dealer when the pub closed its doors in Glasgow in 1974.

It was shipped to the US where it gathered dust in a warehouse for years.

The bar and its fittings have now been bought by medical app firm GoodRx and used to build a “speakeasy” for staff.

California antiques dealer Mitchell Litt said St Mungo Vintners was “beautiful” when he first saw it on Glasgow’s Queen Street in the 1970s.

Designed by architects MacWhannell & Rogerson, it was built in 1904 in the style of the Glasgow School – inspired by architect Charles Rennie Macintosh.

Mitchell said: “I had no idea at that time who Charles Rennie Mackintosh or that school of architecture was, or anything else of that nature.

“What mostly attracted us was the leaded glass windows, there were quite a few throughout the pub.

“It was just basically the art nouveau interior and the way the whole thing looked.”

Mitchell had set up an antiques firm with his wife in 1973, importing items from Europe to sell in the United States.

On their second or third trip to Glasgow they visited St Mungo Vintners and decided to buy the pub.

“I forget the price we paid,” he said.

“I could envision it in a place in Southern California where I was from.”

From the industrial streets of 1970s Glasgow, Mitchell shipped the entire pub interior in a 40ft container to the sunshine of Long Beach, California.

But with his new company mainly focused on buying and selling furniture, it ended up tucked away at the very back of Mitchell’s warehouse.

It remained there for almost 50 years, until Mitchell’s son sent a friend, Doug Hirsch, an old newspaper clipping about the pub.

Doug was the co-founder and chief mission officer of GoodRx.

He wanted to create an old-time “speakeasy” bar at his company’s gleaming new headquarters in Santa Monica – where his staff could gather and relax.

Located in a former Santa Monica pen factory, the open-plan offices are seamlessly modern, with plenty of natural light.

But nestled in the building’s computer server room is a door that leads to another era, that might feel strangely familiar for anyone that ever drank at St Mungo Vintners.

The long curving bar, stained glass windows and mirrored gantry are now polished and shining in their new setting – a Californian homage to an old British pub.

“I’ve always been in love with English and Scottish pubs,” said Doug Hirsch.

“When I was in college I studied abroad in England and of course, I spent time in Scotland.”

Doug said the pub installation took almost two years from start to finish, but the Covid pandemic delayed GoodRx employees being able to enjoy it.

He said his “speakeasy” was now a key part of attracting people to work for the company and bringing employees back into the office.

Some parts of the pub have been adapted for modern use, including part of the bar that was cut and lowered for wheelchair accessibility.

“It was a big project, said Doug. “Everything else around it was a pretty significant budget, not to mention the building of this room itself.

“There’s some also modern fun touches, which you might not notice, like these lights above.

“Those are actually old LA streetlights, but we refashioned them by hand to make them look more period appropriate.”

Mitchell Litt admits he had initially been “somewhat reluctant” to sell St Mungo Vintners.

“I always had a fond place when I thought of that pub and how beautiful it was, so I wasn’t in any hurry to move it,” he said.

But Doug believes his headquarters has become the perfect home for an old Glasgow bar.

He said: “Gathering people together in a social environment to get to know each other – especially again in a world of remote learning and people staring at computers – this is sorely needed for us all.”

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