Out-R-Inn

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Out-R-Inn has so far escaped the spotlight of progress and redevelopment that has dominated Ohio State’s main campus, a hollowed-out brick & wood plank palace that has no-doubt absorbed as much spilled domestic beer as any dive bar.

Field Rating

7

out of 10

Don’t get lost. Or maybe do.

Field Note

Change and redevelopment have dominated the area around The Ohio State University in Columbus, with storefronts along the two main borders of the campus, High Street & Lane Avenue, turned over completely in large chunks after years of development efforts. With that change, campus dive bars that once ringed the school have dwindled, leaving behind a few key gems like the Bier Stube and the Thirsty Scholar.

But Out-R-Inn has survived, benefiting from a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” due to its offset location a block off of High Street north of the main campus. The dive bar is well embedded in the neighborhood that surrounds it, dominated by exactly the type of off-campus student housing that springs to mind after reading that phrase. The front yard, as it were, features a series of fenced-in picnic tables that only hint at the activity inside, jammed beyond fire marshal comfort on gamedays and warm weather afternoons.

The space has been hollowed out as much as structurally possible, resulting in what feels like a cavernous, brick & wood castle.

Out-R-Inn is, after all, a house. The front yard sits on an elevated plot that towers above Frambes Avenue and offers a fairly steep set of stairs that has claimed more than one student over its many years. Inside, the space has been hollowed out as much as structurally possible, resulting in what feels like a cavernous, brick & wood castle designed to herd as many students as possible into the drunken safety of the structure.

It would be easy to get lost within Out-R-Inn and the entrance underscores that point, with drinkers funneled through a small doorway into a tight hallway that branches off, with some roads leading upstairs and the main artery landing at the feet of the small bar in the middle of the house. A side room can be accessed through a series of arched brick doorways, a space that factually contains chairs and tables, but in reality contains a throng of people casually positioned on, near and around the furniture.

The narrowness relents as both paths lead to a back pool room that unfolds into the back patio, an enclosed wooden pen of sorts with picnic tables and a back bar opened up on busy days. It’s hard to overstate the transformation of the space on an Ohio State home game day, the crowd thick and dense, especially on the back patio for a late-summer game. Entire picnic tables are seemingly engulfed by circling crowds that seem to run in friend groups 10 to 20 deep.

Brick archways and wooden flooring drift in and out of this second level, no doubt the place your friend got lost if it’s been awhile since a trip to the bathroom.

The real challenge lives upstairs, with a couple of staircases dotted along the winding interior path leading to the dive bar’s bathrooms and a maze of rooms that looks like something the ancient Romans cooked up. Brick archways and wooden flooring drift in and out of this second level, no doubt the place your friend got lost if it’s been awhile since a trip to the bathroom.

Mug night is the main non-football attraction at Out-R-Inn, the classic, campus-prevalent promotion where the mug is one price and refills another. The souvenir is worth the investment, of course, as is the not needed, but appreciated, discount on domestic beer already priced to move in this student-dominated location.

And a moment must be spent on the woodwork here, with my memories of Out-R-Inn dominated by the wood planks that line the floor and most walls, etched with graffiti and no doubt drenched in decades of spilt beer to the point that they seem to almost sag like hardened, ancient sponges. This wood has seen some stuff, a point heightened by the dart “alley” on the second floor, the peak of the dive bar’s graffiti powers.

Times have changed at Ohio State, and where there was once a Mean Mr. Mustard’s, a Mama’s Pasta & Brew or even a Bernie’s, there remains only a handful of pure campus dives left. If the Bier Stube is south campus’ contender, Out-R-Inn is the north campus answer, spared the fate of ‘progress’ by sitting just a few houses back, blending into the background.

Photos

The Basics

20 Frambes Ave
Columbus, OH 43201

Classification:
College Dive

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