By Marcella Kester, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — A new live-music venue opened its doors to the masses Saturday night, hoping to make a lasting impression on the Wyoming Valley.
By 7 p.m., Karl Hall — on North Main Street next to 5-7-0 Tattooing — had a line of patrons of all ages eagerly waiting to go inside and get a first glimpse.
Standing at the entrance and greeting customers was co-owner and longtime musician A.J. Jump.
Karl Hall was named after Jump’s friend and co-owner Mary McKenna’s late husband, Kevin Karl, who passed away four years ago this week. Jump explained the desire to name the venue after Karl when he and McKenna became partners in tribute of their friendship and love for music.
While thanking guests, Jump explained his decision to open the hall while promptly putting in check any misconceptions about what it would be like.
“I’m trying to cultivate a small, proper venue,” he said while explaining the level of professionalism he will strive to maintain. “I just want to do everything I can at the highest level I can do it.”
Within the first hour of opening, Karl Hall was already halfway to its occupancy limit, as many gathered in the quaint space mingling before the show began. While the venue is all-ages, Karl Hall also operates as a BYOB establishment. Patrons must show their identification at the front door and will receive a bracelet if they are of age. If they bring alcohol to consume, it gets checked with the bartender at the bar, and patrons must show a correlating ticket to receive their beverage.
Wilkes-Barre resident Joe Miller said he was happy to have a more intimate music setting back in the area.
“When we grew up, we had venues like this — we had places and they kind of faded away,” he said, citing an increase in local cover bands in their place. “It’s nice to see somebody doing something where there’s real music.”
Some have likened Karl Hall to Cafe Metropolis — another local music scene formerly located on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre that specialized in punk, rock and ska music. While Jump said he patronized and enjoyed shows at Metro, he quickly addressed the differences between the two establishments.
For starters, Jump said Karl Hall welcomes all genres of music, ranging from rock to jazz and even comedy shows. Secondly, the longtime professional drummer said he created the space with optimal sound and professionalism in mind, even including “backlining,” or providing instruments and stage equipment to ease both artists and patrons alike.
“It’s more along the lines of just a miniature version of Madison Square Garden,” he said.
As more guests began to come and fill the space for acts Rosary Guild, Joe Burke and Everything Turned to Color, Tina Thorton commended Jump and McKenna on the creation of Karl Hall. She was thrilled to see its final form after hearing about the work that went in to it for over six months.
“Really, his whole life had led up to this,” she said of Jump. “His music is his passion. The passion that he has for music and his love for it — he wants to share that with others.”
Karl Hall will feature eight to 12 shows a month, Jump said, primarily on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, check out Karl Hall on Facebook.