A Booming Business on the Beach in Costa Rica

Brothers Khalil and Abasi Chapman—and friend Rocky Leming—first landed in Costa Rica in 2005. At the time they worked in the restaurant and bar industry in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and heard rumors of the impressive surf down in Costa Rica. They headed south for a vacation somewhere on the Caribbean Coast…but ended up finding a new home.

Today they run The Lazy Mon beach bar and restaurant in Puerto Viejo and draw huge crowds for their live music events.

“When we came first, we befriended local expats, surfed, drank out of coconuts, and had the most amazing experience of our lives,” recalls Khalil. “Even though we were only there for three weeks, we vowed to return and open a bar here someday.”

For the next seven years they made several trips per year to the small Caribbean surf town, bringing along other friends. When Khalil got married to Nicole Heiser they even chose to honeymoon there. The couple intended settling down in San Diego.

Yet on one of their final nights in Puerto Viejo, they discovered an opportunity. Sitting directly on the beach in the center of town was an abandoned disco, Stanford’s. In its prime Stanford’s was a cultural landmark. It overlooked the famous Salsa Brava surf break and at night came alive with reggae music and dancing. Khalil and Nicole wondered if they could revitalize it.

“At the time, we did not have the money to invest in the bar, but we came to the realization that it was possible to make this dream come true,” says Khalil.

So they called their friends who had also fallen in love with Puerto Viejo over the years: Abasi and Rocky from the first trip, Abasi’s wife Krysta Price, and their friend and colleague Darryl Wilkin. “We told them that separately we might not have a lot, but that together we could live out our dreams,” says Khalil.

The six friends agreed to invest, with four of them—Khalil, Abasi, and their wives— moving to Costa Rica to run the business.

In November 2010, they opened The Lazy Mon restaurant and bar on the beach. Today it brings expats, families on vacation, backpackers, and local surfers together.

In June 2011, they added a hostel upstairs, which contributes to their income. However, their main revenue comes from live music nights. “We saw a model that worked in some of the major bars and restaurants we worked in—like the Hard Rock Café. We took what we knew and combined it with what locals told us the town needed,” explains Khalil.

A few months after opening they started a Sunday Open Jam with live music acts and the opportunity for anyone in the crowd to come on stage and share their talent. The first Open Jam brought 20 people. Today, hundreds crowd around the bar on the beach to listen to soulful songwriters, dance to a salsa band, bob their heads to rappers, and watch live fire shows. Gradually other nights of the week have become popular as well, with live music at sunset daily.

Khalil and Nicole live permanently in Puerto Viejo, running the bar with Khalil’s brother Abasi and his wife Krysta. Both couples now have young children. “We’re surrounded by our friends and family in a unique, beautiful, thriving part of the Caribbean,” says Khalil. “We love owning the bar.”

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