Mickey’s

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Dive bar karaoke king of Columbus, Mickey’s represents more than the sum of its basic dive bar parts, creating a nightly, karaoke-infused communal experience so powerful that it fogs up the windows in winter and makes them pulse with sound in the summer.

Field Rating

7

out of 10

Be prepared for the Bon Jovi. Get drinking.

Field Note

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 Ohio weather cool things off considerably.

And that’s Mickey’s, 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 crickets, so much so that non-karaoke nights are hard to come by these days. If you haven’t experienced Wednesday night, Midwestern karaoke, this reviewer can’t recommend the experience enough, when the crowds are thin enough that with some luck, you’ll have your run of the microphone…and your drunken stool neighbors will too.

The only decoration of note is a large mural on the west side of the building, a cartoon depiction of karaoke next to the classic Little Caesar’s character.

Outside, Mickey’s doesn’t present itself as much of anything, especially a recent renovation has resulted in the removal of the dive bar’s trademark green sign. A new patio and permanent overhang has taken its place, an update to a building that hasn’t seen one for a very long time. 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 next to the classic Little Caesar’s character, an ode to a pizza joint gone and since replaced.

Inside, Mickey’s is a rectangle with some chairs. 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 in the middle of the seating area. The bar is, you guessed it, a rectangle set off to one side of the space, with just enough wiggle room between the bar and the east wall to create a nightly drunken traffic jam. A center aisle points to a pair of ancient bathrooms in back that look exactly you would expect bathrooms to look in a place that specializes in nightly karaoke.

But up front is where the magic happens, opposite large glass windows that both suggest the outside world and fog up in the winter to create some serious ambiance. The karaoke stand lives here, complemented by a free standing lyrics screen always in danger of being toppled over as well as a pair of other lyrical helpers in strategic locations. A small elevated stage in the corner offers some refuge for the no-doubt embattled emcee, often thrust into action on slow nights, or thrust into crowd control & strategic retreat on busy nights.

If it sounds like your run-of-the-mill bar, it might be from the outside, but this karaoke dive bar is a magical place on a weekend evening.

If it sounds like your run-of-the-mill bar, it might be from the outside, but this karaoke dive bar is a magical place on a weekend evening, when a decent beer selection and some equally decent regulars get the ball rolling on a karaoke train that squeezes every drop out of what a karaoke evening can be. The song library is deep. The singers are often wildly eclectic in their choices. And when you pick that one great song, the bar comes alive with singing, dancing, congratulations and probably a handful of inappropriate activities each song.

That’s what makes Mickey’s worth more than the sum of its parts. Torn chair padding, fading flooring, occasionally surprising bathroom situations, I’ve never seen Mickey’s with the sun up, but I imagine it’s not the most awe-inspiring scene. But I have seen Mickey’s on a Saturday night after an Ohio State win with a big crowd singing one of those familiar songs that everyone knows. That kind of communal feeling isn’t always a common occurrence, but at Mickey’s, that feeling is what makes this dive bar tick.

Photos

The Basics

1230 W 5th Ave
Columbus, OH 43212

Classification:
Karaoke Dive

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