The Karaoke Bars of NYC’s Koreatown Helped Me Find My Voice

Before COVID-19, this is also where you’d find most of Koreatown’s karaoke bars open and ready for customers. Constantly packed with both Koreans and non-Koreans alike, these mini entertainment venues hidden in non-descript buildings appealed to a broad range of revelers: large groups, pent-up individuals in need of a primal release, awkward social gatherings where small talk feels painful, and those looking to be entertained steps away from where they just devoured Korean barbecue. On any given night of the week, parties would climb flights of stairs off 32nd Street or take an elevator ride to what seems like a quiet office, only to be transported to a Koreatown karaoke bar: a vibrant universe filled with disco lights, booze, tambourines, an expansive catalog of songs, and an applause button on every remote to cue good times in an instant. This secret labyrinth of private rooms helps shut out all that’s happening outside its doors, providing an oasis of song, laughter, and blurry memories away from prying eyes. And stepping into this world always gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling, a familiarity and type of comfort I’ve loved since growing up in Flushing, Queens.

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