Karman Bar: South County's Bad Ass, Band-Friendly Bar Run By Women

Erinn Karman (right) with Lisa Alley
Erinn Karman (right) with Lisa Alley
Courtesy of Karman Bar

By: Candace Hansen

When Erinn Karman and Lisa Alley stumbled across the Laguna Niguel nightclub that the Karman Bar now occupies, they knew it was just the place to carry out their decade-old vision of opening the bar of their dreams. The two women came from different backgrounds; Alley from mortgage and business, and Karman from music, writing, and bartending, but after meeting through a mutual friend 12 years ago, the pair realized that opening a bar together was their true calling.

"Who doesn't want to own a bar?" jokes Lisa Alley, "when the right opportunity popped up we jumped right on it." Karman and Alley transformed what was formerly known as Rocks in Laguna Niguel, into the Karman Bar. "Our goal was to breathe new life and excitement into the venue," says Erinn Karman, and in late November the pair started their journey of doing just that. They added 7 new TV's, refinished all of the pool tables, added craft beers to the menu, and upgraded the liquor selection, all while keeping the existing bartenders on staff. With plans to integrate a food menu, host fundraisers for community organizations, bring in artists, and provide a place for local bands to play on weekends, the Karman bar seems to be off to a great start.

See also: Orange County Music League Fight the Good Fight Against Pay-to-Play

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Alley and Karman are loyal to their locals, and have a driving energy to create something for everyone. They've dedicated their work to creating a diverse and unpretentious bar, and with events like swing dancing lessons at Speakeasy Sundays, a punk night known as Thrasher Thursdays, a service industry night, live bands, and 80's karaoke, they are doing a pretty good job at keeping things eclectic. "We never want to create [a] cliquey place," says Alley, "we want everyone to feel comfortable. We have regulars ranging in age from 21 to 81, and we love them all." Their live music vision includes everything from reggae to folk to hardcore. "We believe in supporting local artists, and are thrilled be able to give local musicians the opportunity to showcase their talents." In the world of pay to play Orange County, the Karman Bar is a breath of fresh air.

Its not all about business for the Karman Bar, Erinn Karman is driven by connecting with her customers, and attests that people are what the bar is built on. "We become friends with people in this industry that we wouldn't normally have the opportunity to develop relationships with. There are so many stories, laughs, debates, and friendships formed while sitting around a bar. It's a place where people young and old can share life experience in a very real way, in a very warm environment. I love listening to the conversations that ensue on an average day among people of so many varying interests, demographics, and backgrounds."

Something that sets the Karman Bar apart from other OC hot spots is that it is run by women. Between Alley's background in business and Karman's background in bar management, they have encountered their fair share of challenges in the work world."I think being young and a woman presented its own unique challenges," recalled Karman, "but now that we own the bar, we're in charge, so we don't have to worry about that."

For Erinn Karman, the goals of the Karman bar are simple: "We're aiming to offer people a good time, by playing good music, and providing good service. We want people to come to The Karman Bar and relax. If we get that right, the bar will be a success in our eyes."

The Karman Bar is located at 26022 Cape Drive #C, Laguna Niguel, CA, 92677. Musicians and bands hoping to play the Karman Bar should visit thekarmanbar.com and include links to Facebook or websites, and the staff will get back to you as soon as possible.

Tuesday nights is 80's karaoke Wednesday is Service Industry Night $2 drinks for service industry professionals Thursdays is Thrasher Thursdays all rock/metal/punk/hardcore Friday and Saturday nights, live music Sunday nights are Speakeasy Sundays, free swing dance lessons starting at 7pm. Live swing hands the last Sunday of the month.

See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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