Be prepared to assure people you're not going to that other Ruby Tuesday.
The phrase “two blocks and a world away from High Street” won’t mean much to a non-Columbus resident, but the signature phrase used by Columbus dive bar Ruby Tuesday Live says a lot about avoiding the beaten path. Near the Ohio State University’s main campus, High Street represents a hub of urban activity while Ruby Tuesday Live sits on Summit, a few blocks away that might as well be a few miles away, a quiet corner in a residential neighborhood that has existed in its current format since 1973.
No, Ruby Tuesday Live is not affiliated with any kind of salad bar-friendly casual restaurant chain, though presumably the two entities share inspiration from the Rolling Stones song of the same name. From there the similarities cease as Ruby Tuesday Live represents a classic campus-area dive bar catering to students, post-grads and those living in the semi-affordable housing nearby. The building of course predates its use as a dive bar, records showing that in 1933 it operated as Indianola Pharmacy and by 1964 was in use as the Hi-Hat Restaurant. Sometime prior to purchase of the space by owners Art & Nancy Wilson, the site had been abandoned, sitting empty.
Conversion into today’s dive bar-friendly footprint was no simple task, the bar itself built around the already-installed walk-in cooler that today houses the dive bar’s beer stash. As the Ruby Tuesday Live web site details, a repurposed safe from the Franklin County Treasurer was converted to use as the Ruby Tuesday Live liquor safe. Just before opening, a friend of the owners created the stained-glass piece that can be seen behind the bar area, inscribed with the name of the bar, as well as the lamp that still hangs above the counter inscribed similarly. The historical building and the custom touches converged to create something unique, a vibe that has carried into today’s warm, inviting, eclectic look.
Ruby Tuesday Live sits on a small hill a few steps up from street level, creating a front patio area that makes for good campus-area people watching. This terraced outdoor area has seen some renovation over the years, the space now enclosed by an iron fence that encircle a handful of picnic tables. A red awning tops off the patio area, playing off of green iron in the windows above and a handful of signs proclaiming some of the many specials offered inside.
Inside, a very dive bar-friendly brown hue colors most of the surfaces inside, the floor a deep brown and wood paneling extending up to the ceiling. Even the ceiling tiles play into the aesthetic, a patchwork of brown and white tiles resting overhead. The front room features a pair of pool tables that can make for cramped proceedings on crowded evenings, rows of stools nestled around the outside of the room to offer a bit of overflow seating. Every inch of wall space is covered here, often in signage best classified as ‘dive bar wisdom’ in addition to sports jerseys, signs about food and drink specials, a fair amount of TVs and the odd bar light here and there.
The walk-in cooler slash beer fridge sits in the back corner of the front room, the bar itself a curved, winding area almost hidden by the size of the space. The original stain glass piece once displayed outside can be found here in addition to a pair of antlers, a few bells rung for various drinking-related occasions and the door to the walk-in cooler that looks like it was carved from mahogany but is probably just nicely aged and well-stained. The aforementioned stained glass lamp hangs over head, the bar area holding enough space for only a small handful of people to cram around the bar as Ruby Tuesday Live is more of a “find something else to do here” kind of bar rather than a “sit out the counter for six hours” type of space.
One of those things to do is the live music that rotates through the stage next door, especially during the weekend, late evenings often requiring a cover charge to attend. Famously, country-rock band McGuffey Lane found one of its first homes on this stage, playing with greater frequency as Ruby Tuesday Live grew in popularity during its initial handful of years. All types of genres can be found here today in addition to a handful of weekly occasions that includes trivia night, open mic comedy showcases and even a Super Smash Brothers-fueled gaming event.
Ruby Tuesday Live is fairly cavernous, meaning there is always something more to see. Dart boards can be found near the stage area in addition to piles of stools and chairs moved into and out of the way multiple times per week. A basement party room can be rented out for free for group events, the extensive area almost an entirely separate full bar, down to its own stained-glass-style lamp above the bar. This subterranean alcove feels like a world away from Ruby Tuesday Live upstairs, like drinking in a crypt with only vague permission from someone who lives nearby.
Sitting just a few blocks away from Ohio State’s center of gravity provides Ruby Tuesday Live with just enough separation to preserve a welcoming dive bar vibe without being overtaken by fresh-faced drinkers given their first taste of freedom. The feeling here is much more neighborhood dive bar than it is nightly campus crawl location, a testament to the way Ruby Tuesday Live has supported and catered to its nearby regulars since 1973.