Behind Bars: Chris Beck reflects on 15 years at Bob's Bar

Erica Thompson

When Chris and Mike Beck took over Bob's Bar in 2001, the establishment was already a north Clintonville mainstay, so they knew they couldn't tamper with the name.

"Nobody's coming to 'Chris' Bar' [and] nobody's coming to 'Mike's Bar,'" Chris Beck said.

The original owner, Robert Morris, opened and operated the bar in 1978 until he became ill.

"[Bob] forgot to renew his liquor license and he wasn't paying his sales taxes, so they closed," said Beck, who was a loyal customer of the bar, which opened around dawn, presumably to serve third-shift workers. "We paid the taxes, renewed their liquor license and then got the keys and came in … and said, 'What the hell have we just done?'"

"There were coats on chairs [and] there was money on the bar," he continued. "It was like they expected to open at 6 a.m. the next day except they had been closed a year."

The Beck brothers remodeled the space. They kept the shape of the 56-foot-long bar but installed wood in place of the padded railing. "Pieces of that … were cut up and put onto plaques and given out to regulars," said General Manager Rich Good.

They also added a sink, as the bar previously only had one. "I don't know what they did for washing glasses [and I] don't want to know," Beck said.

Jim Beatty, one of the Becks' first managers, led the charge in upgrading the bar's beer selection, which was somewhat limited.

"When we bought Bob's they had three taps," Beck said. "It was Busch, Busch and Busch."

"I know when I started here nine years ago, [Beatty]'s quote was, 'No domestics on tap, no pitchers and no NASCAR on the TV,'" Good said.

"We just started realizing that people really do like different kinds of craft beers, and nobody was doing it yet," Beck said. "So we just kept getting better beers and rare beers."

Those rare beers are especially prominent during the bar's Extravaganza event each February. Among other offerings, patrons can expect cask-conditioned beers like Columbus Brewing Co.'s Bodhi mixed with fruit flavors like pineapple and mango. "We work really hard to really make that the best tap list in the city each year," Good said.

Bob's Bar's status as one of the "best sports bars in America" has required significantly less effort;Maxim magazine unexpectedly bestowed the honor upon the bar in 2011.

"[It] kinda cracks us up 'cause we're like, 'We're a beer bar; we're not a sports bar,'" Beck said.

But Bob's Bar does claim to be "the cultural hub of the Midwest."

"We're just a melting pot of the Midwest," Beck said. "You could be the CEO of a brewery or you could be a construction worker and it doesn't matter; everybody's welcome. … That's what it means to me."