Bar profile: Sidebar 122 set to take center stage

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the January 16, 2014 edition

Sidebar 122 won’t be on the sidelines for long.

The historic Downtown building that once served as a brothel and speakeasy — complete with an underground tunnel to the statehouse — is now home to expertly crafted cocktails and Chilean-inspired eats. After an admittedly bumpy start, Sidebar 122 is poised to come to prominence in the Columbus dining scene with a strong bar staff and Chef Alberto Tapia at the helm.

“Right now we are really hitting our stride,” General Manager Justin Kintz said on a recent Monday. “Now that the ball is rolling, things are really looking up.”

According to Kintz, the focus is on the quality and consistency of service, rather than gimmicks. House-made bar mixers, precision-poured libations and artfully executed tapas from Tapia exemplify the level of care put into every detail of the overall experience.

“We’ve had a few hiccups, as with any business,” Kintz said. “But now I really think we have the right people in place. We have the best bar staff in the city. I have never worked with a staff that is more passionate about what they do. They bring the whole concept to life.”

Each room in the four-story building offers a specific ambiance, allowing patrons of Sidebar 122 to dictate their personal experience.

The main bar and dining area offer a sophisticated aesthetic with an intimate atmosphere, ideal for dates and happy hour meetings. The basement, which once housed an actual speakeasy, is a dimly lit cavern with a small stage that plays host to the Volstead Comedy Show on Thursday nights. To the back of the basement bar is a defunct tunnel that, according to Kintz, once served as a discrete entrance for Ohio statesmen. The second and third floors serve as event spaces and are characterized by a row of fireplaces. The thin walls that separated each hearth when the space was a brothel are gone, leaving the space open and welcoming.

Though the history of the building might bring you by, Kintz believes the staff will bring you back.

“Each floor has its own story. The unique history here is alive and we are lucky to have that available to us, but it isn’t all we are. We also offer impeccable service and expertly prepared food. That is what is going to keep us around after the ‘speakeasy fad’ wears off,” he said. “We are adaptable. We are the real thing. We aren’t faking it.”