It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere: R Bar

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A quick flick of a wrist and the crowd inside Nationwide Arena was on their feet. Antoine Vermette's overtime goal against Chicago sent Blue Jackets fans into a tizzy, and the buzz carried hordes of them outside, down the brick street and into R Bar.

The exodus is typical - win or lose, according to bar co-owner Natalie Darr. If you haven't noticed, the Jackets have been winning a lot these days, and the crowds inside the Arena District bar could hardly be more joyous about it.

"It still gives me goose bumps thinking about the Jackets going to the playoffs," Darr said.

The neighborhood bar in a nontraditional neighborhood has become a mecca for hockey fans near and far. The bar shows every CBJ match - with sound - plus features gameday drink specials, like $2.50 Molson bottles, and occasional trivia contests and prizes.

Opened in January, R Bar's spacious new locale off Front Street sports plentiful large-screen TVs and a bounty of coveted hockey memorabilia - like a signed play sheet from Ken Hitchcock's first CBJ game and a stick inked by Wayne Gretzky.

"We have a whole stack of sticks in the back just so if a cool player comes in they can sign [one]," Darr said.

It happens, too - Rick Nash and a couple CBJ players were guest bartenders at R Bar last month. The bar regularly packs a crowd, but the Jackets' away-game nights tend to be the most lively, Darr said.

During games, twentysomethings wearing jerseys are quick to high-five middle-aged professionals. Bartenders clang a bell to celebrate every CBJ goal, and those goals are often followed by rounds of Stinger Bombs ($4), a bright blue drink with a smooth tequila kick. Ticket-holders often gather at R Bar before home games then walk to the arena. They're often accompanied by the bar's three owners.

The drinkery's long, daily happy hour is a rarity in the area. Domestic bottles ($2) and tall PBR cans ($2.50) provide the best values, but 110-ounce Molson towers ($16) are popular for those settling in to watch one of the many games on NHL Center Ice.

Beer is the drink of choice for patrons, and the wood bar with rich red walls provides a welcoming setting to sip a pint, like Goose Island 312 or Guinness ($4.50).

"We have so many regulars that come in, our bartenders really get to know our customers," Darr said.

R Bar hopes to debut a food menu this summer, she said. When the Blue Jackets' season ends, the TVs inside the bar will showcase various sports - everyone is just hoping that comes later rather than sooner.