Like a music-filled karaoke shoebox.
There is nothing quite like the remnants of a long karaoke night smeared across the surface of a dive bar. Well-lubricated, open microphone-craving drinkers can be a destructive force, knocking over drinks, stumbling into bathrooms, assaulting stray furniture. A long night of singing with strangers produces a kind of glow that envelops a bar, making everything a little warmer before the end of the night.
And that’s Mickey’s Bar, the dive bar karaoke king of Columbus, an institution so tied to its primary mode of entertainment that despite occupying a highly trafficked part of town, non-karaoke nights draw significantly smaller crowds. So linked with karaoke is Mickey’s Bar that Wednesday through Thursday belong to amateur, beer-filled singers, the festivities starting at 9:30 PM with crowds starting to assemble around 8:30 or so on weekend nights especially.
The Mickey’s Bar building perched along primary Grandview Heights thoroughfare Fifth Avenue is fairly nondescript, a small building renovated over the past few years, relocating the Columbus dive bar’s original sign to the side of the structure. Out front, a new patio and permanent overhang adds a little more visual distinction to what was once simply Columbus sidewalk usually filled with karaoke singers on smoke breaks between songs. Adjacent to a strip mall parking lot, the only decoration of note is a large mural on the west side of the building, a cartoon depiction of karaoke reminiscent of the Little Caesar’s character, an ode to a pizza joint gone and since replaced.
The Mickey’s Bar floorplan is simple, a rectangle with floating bar in the middle of the space, everything oriented around the karaoke “zone” in the window-covered front corner. The furniture features a series of large round tables, a handful of high tops and a pretty unwieldy elevated table that is as immovable as it is inconvenient, a bottleneck in what can become a pretty backed Mickey’s Bar. The bar is set toward the east side of the building, leaving a sliver of space for seating on one side, creating a nightly drunken traffic jam as the night progresses.
The karaoke magic happens up front, large glass windows serving as stage ambiance, fogging quickly during cold weather months as the assembled crowd generates significant heat. The karaoke stand lives here, complemented by a free standing lyrics screen always in danger of being toppled over. A mounted television near the bar offers additional support. A small, elevated stage provides some refuge to the no-doubt embattled emcee often thrust into action on slow nights.
Make no mistake, Mickey’s Bar is more than the sum of its parts, the karaoke pedigree here turning weekend evenings into near religious experiences when that perfect song hits and the crowd leans in to sing along. Mickey’s Bar regulars make up a good portion of early evening participants, each with a signature style and eclectic presentation. The beer selection is better-than-dive-bar fare, the usual domestics mixing with higher end craft cans, all of it available on a cash-only basis.
Taken together, Mickey’s Bar combines the best aspects of a dive bar (little-changed surroundings, affordable prices) and the best aspects of a local karaoke hotbed (hot crowd, communal vibe). Torn chair padding, fading flooring, an ancient bar, a diverse cast of regulars, the ingredients exist for the right kind of karaoke experience, leaving little mystery as to why karaoke now takes over Mickey’s Bar five nights a week and why Mickey’s is generally regarded the best karaoke night in Columbus.