Arcadia Speakeasy, Matt Denny’s, Changes Hands
By Terry Miller
On Saturday morning Matt McSweeny was preparing for a staff meeting at the ever-popular Matt Denny’s in Arcadia. “It will be the most difficult meeting I have ever had. I will be informing them that Matt Denny’s will be posting a ‘Change in Ownership’ sign in the window.” McSweeny told Arcadia Weekly last Friday night.
On Tuesday morning, Arcadia Weekly sat down with the man behind the legendary Ale House. It was a particularly emotional time for McSweeny, as he had just posted the notice on the front window indicating the change of ownership. McSweeny took a cellphone picture of the sign and sent it to his relatives. “There were a lot of tears, this morning,” McSweeny told Arcadia Weekly.
Why leave now? We posed the question to McSweeny – “Because, I can no longer serve straws!” McSweeny quipped. He was, of course, kidding and referring to a rather absurd proposed legislation that could make straws illegal unless requested.
The sale was pending for some time before McSweeny informed his staff but reassured everyone of his employees that all would keep their jobs. This was vitally important to McSweeny as he considers it one big family.
“It’s bittersweet,” McSweeny said of his tenure as owner of one of the most successful businesses in Arcadia. On Jan 17 in 1999 Matt McSweeny took the plunge with his the business partner Dennis Hartman and although it was a struggle at first, McSweeny’s business has become an Arcadia icon of enormous proportions. Hartman parted ways with Sweeny in 2001 but the two remain good friends.
McSweeny told Arcadia Weekly that it was time for him to take a break. As a philosophical and spiritual man, McSweeny’s love for people and his extended family that is the Ale House has prompted a huge outpouring of love when the news of the change of ownership became public.
Former long-time columnist for Arcadia Weekly, Dorothy Denne, had this to say about Matt’s departure from the downtown Arcadia business scene. “OMG! The loss of one of the major positive factors in my Arcadia life. I just thought Matt Denny’s would always be there until I went to Glory. Owner Matt McSweeny has been a major asset to the City and to so many local organizations and most of all, in my corner, to me personally.
When I needed a place for lunch or dinner with friends of for business, I automatically thought of Matt Denny’s. I knew Matt McSweeny would be there. When my husband died Matt was super helpful and supportive.
I will, oh so much, miss his hugs, smiles, laughter and sharing of thoughts.”
Mc Sweeny has been active not only with his own successful and very popular speakeasy on Huntington Drive but has spearheaded a number of business improvements in the city over the past two-decades and helped other businesses succeed in their chosen venture. McSweeny genuinely is the epitome of a Renaissance man.
He helped found the Arcadia Business Association along with Beth Costanza, Marty Wood and April Verlato about 8 years ago.
In 1999, Matt McSweeny was approached by Arcadia Host Lions club member George Carter about the prospect of holding an inaugural fundraiser for childhood cancer research. McSweeny read the pamphlet Carter left with him and he said “I’m in!” St. Baldrick’s has become an annual tradition and thus far raised well over half a million dollars. This year’s event, on March 15 will be the 17th annual fundraiser and the 17th time Matt McSweeny and hundreds of others shave their heads in solidarity with the children battling cancer.
Firefighters from Arcadia along with Arcadia Police Officers, local superior court judges and just about everyone in town shaves their head each year -including McSweeny- at the biggest fundraiser for childhood cancer research.
“Every time I see those kids (from City of Hope) get off the antique firetruck each year, I tear up.” McSweeny said.
Brian Ursettie from Arcadia Firefighters Association who works closely with McSweeny for this and other events told Arcadia Weekly that ““Matt has been a pillar in Arcadia, and the Arcadia Firefighters’ Association for years. He has catered promotions, retirements, and funerals for our members, and has always gone above and beyond for us when we needed him. Most recently, Matt donated dinner for the 40 residents that were displaced after the Kenwood Fire, which was such a blessing to all of them. His willingness to help is unmatched, and he had his hand in a multitude of charitable events year after year. Matt will be truly missed, and he will always be appreciated by the AFFA. ”
McSweeny said he couldn’t have picked a better city to land in and has worked closely with the City of Arcadia right from the start and established very strong friendships as a result. “Matt had been wonderful to work with and has been an asset to this community in every way. He always over delivered on his promises and was willing to help out and volunteer with any community issue. He was the founding President of the Arcadia Improvement Association and was one of the key personalities in making sure it got off the ground and was effective. In my time here, I’ve never heard an ill word spoken about him. Every local business should be lucky enough to run by a Matt McSweeney.” City Manager Dominic Lazaretto told Arcadia Weekly
Local advertising account executive for Arcadia Weekly, Jose Luis Correa had this to say upon hearing the news…..
“I will always think of Matt as family. I am saddened by the news that soon when I go in for a cold beer after work, I will not see Matt behind the bar, I do hope the new owners do not change anything at Matt Denny’s because how can you improve on perfection, but I think Matt Denny’s is the perfect place to go where everyone knows your name”
One final thought from Tom Behrens, world famous drummer and international man of mystery:
“For almost two decades Matt Denny’s has been a part of my life…Celebrated many birthdays and family events, class reunions, enjoyed music on the patio, not to mention the best St. Patrick’s Day parties ever. But the best part of the MD’s experience was when Matt paid a visit to your table. Thank Matt, for the good times and good luck on your next chapter.”
McSweeny told Arcadia Weekly that the name will remain Matt Denny’s but there will be a new sign and everyone who currently works at the ale house will remain employed. McSweeny will also help the new owner Long Nguyen through the transition period but hopefully soon he’ll have more time to wander with his children, go for a hike and explore new spiritual ground on this enthralling journey we call life.
Matt Dennys is located at 145 Huntington Drive in Arcadia.