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Detroit Bar to change owner, name

But the popular Costa Mesa venue will continue focusing on live music.

January 14, 2014|By Hannah Fry
  • The Detroit Bar will change hands next month and become The Wayfarer - A House of Social Provisions, and continue to be a live music venue in Costa Mesa.
The Detroit Bar will change hands next month and become… (Don Leach / Daily…)

The music will play on even after Detroit Bar changes hands next month.

The Memphis Group, which purchased the Costa Mesa bar and concert venue on West 19th Street in 2001, announced Monday morning that ownership has been transferred to local restaurateur Jeff Chon.

Under Chon's ownership, Detroit Bar will be renamed The Wayfarer — A House of Social Provisions. It will continue to feature live music.

In addition to updating the sound system and interior of the bar, Chon is developing a menu of upscale bar food for the location.

Detroit Bar will close at the end of February. The Wayfarer is projected to open this summer.

Chon is a 13-year veteran of the Orange County food industry. He owns The Alley, a popular Newport Beach restaurant and bar, and Tabu Shabu in Costa Mesa.

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He credits the success of his other ventures to support and devotion from the local community.

"The Alley is an eclectic crowd. It's like the local Cheers," he said, referring to the TV show of the same name that ran in the 1980s and '90s. "I want to take the local element we have in Newport and bring it to [The Wayfarer]."

Buzzbands.la first reported the sale Saturday, identifying The Wayfarer as a gastropub, or a bar that serves high-quality restaurant food.

Gastropubs have been gaining popularity in Orange County for several years, with fashionable eateries popping up in trendy areas like downtown Santa Ana and Old Towne Orange.

While The Wayfarer may appear to be a gastropub by definition, Chon doesn't like the label.

"If you serve food in a bar it's automatically called a gastropub," he said. "I wouldn't define [The Wayfarer] as a gastropub. Calling it a gastropub means the place will focus on food. It will have food, but it's not the focus."

The heart of the venue will continue to be spotlighting local musicians, Chon said.

However, he plans to diversify the genres played at the bar to include jazz and blues, in addition to presenting local cover bands, indie-rock artists and deejays.

"We want to create more of a diverse following," he said.

In 2001, the Memphis Group purchased what was then Club Mesa, a well-known destination for punk shows during the 1980s and 1990s. The group remodeled the sound system and interior and rebranded the venue Detroit Bar. The location became a hub for live performances by up-and-coming indie rock bands and deejays spinning drum and bass, house and electronic music seven days a week.

Several well-known bands have played Detroit Bar, including Cold War Kids, Modest Mouse, Young The Giant, Capital Cities, Shiny Toy Guns and Aloe Blacc.

James Blake, 39, of Fullerton was introduced to Detroit Bar when his rock band, Chieftint, started playing there 10 years ago.

He's been frequenting the music hot spot ever since for its "variety of music and cool vibe."

Blake plans to continue attending shows even after the change in ownership.

"Music is very important here," he said. "If the new owner can incorporate food and keep the focus on music, then it'll be a change for the better."

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