The small and intimate Anchor Bar for years served as a primary training ground for up-and-coming comedians to try out their routines in Orange County.
Evan Cassidy, host of the Anchor Bar Comedy Show, started the show about eight years ago. Since then, it’s swelled from a small open mic event to a six-hour comedy marathon.
Held every Monday night, about 100 comedians could take the stand on any given week.
Then about a year ago, the family-owned venue on Irvine Avenue, in an unincorporated area between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, had to end the show indefinitely after the county informed owner Steve Kalatschan that his business needed an entertainment permit to host the event.
It seemed like an easy fix. Kalatschan said the county told him it would take a few months to attain the permit, but the process has taken longer than expected.
In the meantime, Anchor Bar suffered financial setbacks, being forced to close on Mondays, and the comedy show has moved to Chapter One in Santa Ana for the time being.
Cassidy said the new venue has been doing well, but isn’t the same as Anchor Bar.
“There was a certain energy and culture that developed at Anchor Bar,” Cassidy said. “It was kind of like our cathedral.”
“The show was a huge thing in Orange County,” Kalatschan said. “People were driving from L.A. and all over Orange County to come see it. It was one of the most comfortable venues for up and comers. It’s a small cozy room where they got a bunch of regulars. People really got to know each other. It became a community there with the comics.”
Earlier this month, Cassidy, started an online petition that has collected more than 1,700 signatures. He’s hoping the effort puts some pressure on the county to complete the permit process quicker.
“I’m hoping to communicate the significance of this place and what it means to local comedians and the community,” Cassidy said. “There’s a legacy to this place. It really serves as an outlet to local comedians.”
Some of the comics who were regulars at the comedy show have moved on to tour with comedians Doug Stanhope and Margaret Cho. Others became writers for successful television programs.
Comments on the petition’s webpage remark on the show’s importance.
“Anchor Bar is where I first got the opportunity to perform stand-up, and have loved it since,” one comment reads. “Without the welcoming community at Anchor, I doubt I’d continue doing comedy.”
“Anchor Bar and [its] comedy night has played a crucial role to my career as a stand-up comedian,” another says. “It’s a place where both comedians and its Orange County audience share a symbiotic relationship that benefits both. We supply the jokes and they supply the laughs. During its course of comedy on Monday night it really became a Costa Mesa and Orange County institution for patrons who were looking to laugh after work.”
Joe Eurell, 32, of Huntington Beach said his comedy career started at Anchor Bar about six years ago.
“There was always a good crowd there with real people,” Eurell said. “When you are comedian, a lot of open mics can be devoid of real people.”
The county could not be reached for comment before press time.