In the four decades since The Coach House’s founding, the space’s function has changed several times, serving as a cook-your-own steakhouse, a country music dance hall and, most recently, a concert venue that highlights a wide variety of artists.
Since The Coach House opened in 1980, owner Gary Folgner has been at the helm, noting that, like most places, the venue has evolved and changed a lot over the years.
“When we got into the concert part, it started right off the bat, and the area needed it at the time,” Folgner says. “From there, this is what you see. It took a while to get everything changed; we remodeled three times in that 40 years.”
After a concert venue in Huntington Beach closed, Folgner says it left the field for entertainment in Orange County wide open for The Coach House to fill.
The venue has drawn a steady crowd of music lovers over the years, as The Capistrano Dispatch readers have voted The Coach House as the recipient of our Golden Horseshoe for Best Entertainment Venue in 2022. Since 2013, The Coach House has been a finalist in this category 10 times, receiving the Gold for eight consecutive years.
Trevor’s at the Tracks, which readers of The Dispatch voted as the recipient of our Silver Horseshoe, has live music every night, featuring more than 50 musicians a month. Owner Trevor Baird notes that the restaurant has worked to emphasize the restaurant’s motto, “locally acquired, globally inspired,” by featuring local artists, beers, wines and domestic spirits.
“Really, trying to drive that environmentally conscientious focus and bring awareness to all the wonderful things that we have around us in this area and in this state,” Baird says.
Baird adds that Trevor’s at the Tracks is “proud to support local musicians,” and the nice outdoor environment makes for a unique music venue.
What differentiates The Coach House from other venues, Folgner adds, is that patrons can enjoy their dinner along with the show.
“We serve dinner for most of the shows, which makes it quite a bit different from most of them,” Folgner says. “We have dinners right where you’re going to be seated to see the show.”
The Coach House features a wide variety of musical genres and can draw in larger artists than other clubs its size, Folgner says.
“We do most all the stuff, except we stay away from punk, just because we’re not set up to do it,” Folgner says, adding: “We’re able to get the artists because, from time to time, they like to play in a smaller venue, but they normally can’t afford it. To put a group on the road is not a cheap thing; it’s very expensive.”
The biggest draw for The Coach House, Folgner notes, is the entertainment.
“It’s who’s playing,” Folgner says. “If it’s not a band that’s popular, you’ll go broke.”
“That’s part of what’s hard about this business; you’ve got new bands coming up, and if you don’t try them or use them, you don’t have new music,” Folgner continues. “That’s why sometimes you come in and you see a show, and it’s only got a hundred people; that’s because the band is probably new. But if you don’t try the new groups, you won’t have new groups in the future.”
The Coach House’s patrons vary from night to night depending on the featured artist, though the popular genres have also changed over the years.
“I think music will always be a basic factor to life,” Folgner says. “We do all types of bands, and different types of people show up. When we do the old ’70s, ’80s rock stuff, it’s all people my age coming in. The ’90s stuff hasn’t been as popular as I’d hoped it to be; we need more work and more people to keep that business alive.”
Folgner adds that rock is always the most popular genre, though The Coach House has seen times when reggae or jazz was more popular.
“When I first started, it was jazz, and every group that was out there making any money was a jazz band, and now it’s rock or basic rock,” he says.
Now 81 years old, Folgner foresees a time when his nephew may take over the space.
“We’ve got 20 more years locked up in the lease, so I’m sure we’ll be around for 20 years,” he predicts.
Folgner adds that while he may be the one making the decisions for The Coach House, he wants to thank his staff for their hard work.
“I have a lot of people here that work their tails off to keep this thing going; I may physically make all of the decisions and stuff, but my employees do 99% of the work,” he says.
The Coach House’s patrons are music lovers, Folgner says.
“They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t (love music,)” Folgner says. “They’re paying a pretty good sum of money to see a band when you can turn on your radio and listen to it for nothing.”
“But to see them in person, it’s special to them, and it’s actually special to the bands,” Folgner continues. “The bands are always happy when they sell out, and they’re not happy when they don’t, because they want to get out and play to a crowded house; they want to see fans out there.”
Folgner emphasizes he just hopes people continue enjoying music.