A Vision from the Past at Seahorse Lounge

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If you don’t already know about the Seahorse Lounge your friends are keeping secrets from you.

The Seahorse Lounge, a wine and beer bar located inside Pearl St. General in Laguna’s Pearl District, has become a home away from home for Laguna locals and tourists alike. Almost two years after opening, they still maintain a low-key speakeasy vibe.

Vintage velvet couches of deep burgundy and hot pink bench seats provide a spot for all to enjoy a drink in this living room-esque bar. Stunning female art and classic black and white photographs adorn the walls, while an old fashioned record player spins hits next to stacks of vintage vinyl that patrons are free to choose from.

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Being at the Seahorse is like being at your very chic, eccentric grandmother’s house, but with kegs on tap, an extensive yet reasonably priced wine list, and mouth-watering snacks on demand.

Owner of the Seahorse Lounge, Michele Reynolds, thought her husband had lost his mind when he -- out of the blue -- purchased an empty old auto parts store and handed her the keys. In 2013, the family turned the run-down space into the Pearl St. General Store, a beachy, yet sophisticated goods and coffee shop. Specialty items line the shelves with thoughtfully curated wines and gourmet food items from around the world, as well as local favorites.

A few years later, they decided it was time to revive and renovate the famous Seahorse part of the store.

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The original Seahorse opened in 1946, unofficially known as Laguna’s first gay bar. Run by a single mother (a redhead like Reynolds), Reynolds felt compelled to bring it back to its old glory -- even digging up the same bar top she had found covered in dust, deep within the basement. The family has hired a historian to dig into the history of the building, and is eager to entertain you with tales over a drink at the bar (trust us, they’re amazing).

Located on PCH and Pearl Street, just a stone’s throw from the beach, Reynolds estimates about 80 percent of their customers are locals week after week. “Everybody here pretty much knows each other,” Reynolds explains. “What’s interesting is that two generations come here. Parents, as well as their kids… typically not on the same night or listening to the same music, but that’s who comes!”

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Reynolds calls her son, Nick, who is the bartender, the face of the Seahorse. He’s the type that will remember what you drank last time you stopped by and will turn up your favorite song on the record player just because. Nick’s involvement also plays a huge role in the Seahorse’s constantly changing beer list, which focuses on local and seasonal brews.

And let’s not forget about the food. Chef Antonio Roa, has been cooking up tasty cuisine in the culinary world for over 30 years, so trust us when we say you’ll want to try everything. Despite the tiny kitchen he has to work with, Roa is constantly churning out new items like salmon tacos, duck wings, and crab cakes to name just a few.

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“We really would like you to feel like you're at the Ritz -- except, you’re pretty much in a garage,” Reynolds laughs good-naturedly.

Garage or not, the Reynolds family has transformed this once abandoned and forgotten space into a magical oasis full of family and friends that share drinks, food, laughs, and tales from generations passed… truly a local’s dream.

Fun fact: The lovely art and photos hanging on the walls came from Reynolds’ step-mother, Ilona Wilson, a jaw-dropping Hollywood actress in the 1950’s, who worked until her 70’s before retiring in Laguna Beach.

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Mari Verdugo is a fourth generation Laguna Beach native, a photographer, writer, and regular at the Seahorse Lounge. Find Mari at @marielenaphoto or on her website.

Photos by: Grant Puckett.