November 16th marked the last live music show at Laguna Niguel’s Karman Bar … at least for the time being. As of now, the bar has closed its Cape Drive location and is currently looking for a new spot. Since opening its doors almost exactly five years ago, owners Erinn Karman and Lisa Alley fostered a live music scene in the intimate dive bar. Prior to that, the building housed a bar called Rocks which was featured on the television show Bar Rescue not long before closing. When the Karman Bar opened, it brought some much needed music, culture and a sense of community to South County.
The Karman Bar hosted countless punk shows in just five short years. Legendary SoCal acts such as Narcoleptic Youth, Agent Orange and Shattered Faith are just a few names to have graced TKB’s stage. Other up-and-coming local bands, such as masters of funk The Sbins, psych-rockers Velvet Merlin and South County punks Vagrant, have played to energetic and sweaty crowds at the venue. As one of the most consistent live venues in South County, the Karman Bar has been vital in both giving local musicians a place to play and bringing touring bands to town.
However, The Karman Bar has always been much more than a simple punk bar. Karaoke nights, Speakeasy Sundays (complete with free swing dance lessons) and Service Industry nights (featuring $2 drinks for service industry professionals) were also regular occurrences at the establishment. The Weekly’s own Lisa Black even performed at the Karman’s Open Mic Night on at least one occasion.
Unfortunately, as Erinn Karman confirmed via an Instagram post, the bar’s five-year lease is up this month. As a result, the owners are currently looking for a new location to set up shop. Naturally, one of the community’s biggest concerns is whether or not the bar will continue to host live music at its new location. Luckily, a spokesperson for the bar confirms that live music will remain a top priority moving forward.
“The Karman Bar is relocating and yes, we will still have live music,” reads an email response. “We will not be moving far from home. TKB is not only looking for a spot with good vibes, we also want a spot that welcomes the live music scene. We will be keeping our faithful customers updated via social media and our website.”
While it’s certainly a relief to know that the Karman Bar will continue to support live music in the future, the real question is, of course, whether or not it will be able to recreate the unique atmosphere of is original location. Regardless of what musical guests or drink specials were featured on any given night, the Karman Bar always seemed unpretentious and, frankly, about as welcoming as any dive bar can be.
In her 2017 article on the place, Lisa Black noted that the bar appeared to be “douchebag-free,” primarily because of its strong female ownership and management. Karman, Alley and their employees all demand respect with their badass, take-no-shit demeanors, while also keeping the place fun and lively. This has always been at the heart of the Karman Bar. As long as the next location opens up under the same management and presents a similar environment, it’s safe to say that it will carry on in that light. The only two remaining questions are where and when that might be.