Behind Bars: Mike Darr of The Three-Legged Mare

Erica Thompson

When you enter The Three-Legged Mare, you pass under a doorway that bears an Irish proverb. One portion of the text encourages patrons to "dance like nobody's watching [and] sing like nobody's listening." Those actions require a certain level of comfort and security, which is exactly what owner Mike Darr would like his customers to experience in his Arena District bar.

"It's a living room [type of] feel," Darr said of the back section, which includes a fireplace, flat-screen TV and a wide, circular booth resembling a couch. The cozy space is also decorated with kerosene lamps, books, a guitar and a typewriter. Adding to the relaxed vibe is the music - soft-rock classics from the '90s or, on Saturdays, live local acoustic acts.

Darr opened The Three-Legged Mare - formerly O'Shaughnessy's Public House under different management - in December 2011 with his wife, Natalie Darr, and business partner, Danny Capoccia. At that point, they had five years of industry experience as owners of R Bar, also in the Arena District.

The husband and wife met at R Bar after Mike Darr's information technology job transferred him to Columbus. Natalie Darr was the manager at the time. They married in 2005 and went into business together.

"Before we had children, [R Bar] basically was our child, and we got to see it grow into being rated one of the top 10 hockey bars in the United States," Darr said.

He soon learned that The Three-Legged Mare, which describes a stool as well as an unsteady, intoxicated person, would come with its own exciting challenges. For example, Darr and staff are always adapting to the ever-changing crowd brought in by the nearby Nationwide Arena.

"So you could have a country concert one night, you go into a Drake concert the next week, and then you have a Blue Jackets game the following week and then a circus," Darr said.

Last year, The Three-Legged Mare was the "official" bar for a few basketball teams during the NCAA tournament.

"You have 500 people in here for 24 hours almost," Darr said. "When you walk out of it, just knowing that you accomplished it and everyone had a good time, that's always a great feeling."

Most customers order Guinness beer, which Darr serves warmer than normal (48 degrees) to add more flavor. Signature dishes include the "One and One" haddock meal and beef that is corned in-house. This summer, the bar will offer a new "Irish-fusion" menu, spearheaded by the new head chef, Caleb Eddy.

While Darr himself isn't Irish - Natalie Darr is - he said he appreciates the culture's sense of hospitality and wants the bar's environment to foster conversation.

"Hang out with your neighbors, get off your phone, enjoy a pint and talk to each other," he said.