Happy Hour: Rumba Cafe

  • Photo by Tessa Berg
By Columbus Alive
From the January 5, 2012 edition

Rumba Cafe has built quite a reputation as a great place to see a live show. Hosting acts like Madison Square Gardeners, Lucero, local legend Tim Easton and many of the best local artists, the Summit Street bar has serviced Columbus music fans ardently.

One of Rumba Cafe’s best — and sometimes overlooked — aspects is its happy hour shows. Between eight and 10 times a month, Rumba Cafe opens early to present live music and offer drink specials.

The booze:

Rumba Cafe may be known as live music bar, but it executes the “bar” part well. Bartenders who are as hip as they are friendly serve an ample lineup of booze and beers.

During happy hour well liquors are $2, and domestic bottles ($1.75) and PBRs ($1.50) are discounted.

The regular happy hour deals are good deals, but the recently added daily specials — Cowboy Cocktails — are a standout. They include a daily draft and whiskey special for $3 (Bulleit, anyone?) and a bottled beer for $2. Rumba Cafe has 12 taps featuring craft IPAs, porters, stouts and the other usual suspects.

The music:

The happy hour shows fill a void in the Columbus music scene. There’s a whole crowd of longtime Columbus music fans who’ve gotten married, had kids, etc., and can’t go to shows that start at 10 or 11 p.m. Being the father of a two-year-old, I know this problem all too well.

“I don’t know where else you can see a great rock show at 6:30 p.m.,” said Todd Dugan, manager and booking agent. “Tons of people have come up to me and said they really appreciate getting to see a rock show again.”

It’s not just moms and dads at the happy hour shows. The room is frequently packed to its 200-person capacity, usually because of a must-see act. Dugan says the early evening slot, especially on Fridays, is the most sought after among bands seeking gigs.

Local rock supergroup The Spikedrivers have become the de facto happy hour house band, playing a number of shows each year. The band will play a happy hour show on Jan. 21.

It was The Spikedrivers’ Jesse Henry who originally approached Dugan about putting on happy hour performances about five years ago. Since then, Rumba Cafe has seen everything from singer-songwriters to punk bands take the stage as the sun goes down.