Heavy on the beer, light on the books

When you're young, spending too much time at the library is not a bad thing — but spending too much time at The Library Bar might not be the best decision.

Well, now that's up for debate, too. Dave “Cricket” Shaw spent so much time at the campus watering hole — driving up from Logan, Ohio, as a teen in the '70s to visit before getting a job there checking I.D.s and working his way up to manager — that he eventually bought the place on April Fool's Day in 1986.

Alive caught up with Shaw to find out, among other things, what has changed in over 30 years.

“Not much,” Shaw said from behind the bar. The same orange sign outside has denoted the North High Street location, and the building's few books — including psychology and sociology texts flanked by bottles of Tanqueray and Seagram's — have been locked in cages for years. The shuffle bowling game still works and the pool tables still get plenty of service, though the leagues — celebrated by multiple plaques and trophies on display — have stopped.

Though rent and insurance have increased, the cost of draft beer hasn't. You also won't find any craft selections.

“We're just not that kind of place,” Shaw said. “People come here to drink cheap beer and cheap liquor. … People who've been coming here for years and years — whether they were in school or got a job and stuck around — they still come here.”

One couple even got married in the bar, much to Shaw's astonishment. “‘You really want to get married in here?'” he asked the pair. “‘Do what I did. Go to Vegas.'”

Customers have made their mark in other ways, mostly by scrawling graduation dates over much of the wood-paneled wall surface.

The Columbus band Watershed left a signed cymbal, which hangs on the wall. Years ago it wasn't unusual to find the musicians performing a set. “I sang with them once,” Shaw said. “It was a big mistake.”

The cymbal isn't the only unique piece of decor. There's a “Pubs of Columbus” poster by Brian McKelvey that depicts many of the city's celebrated bars and restaurants. Some campus-area establishments, such as Bernie's and Larry's, are in the picture, but have since closed.

If it's up to Shaw, The Library Bar will escape High Street redevelopment and live on.

“I would say as long as the building's still there, The Library should be here,” he said. “There's nothing that I've heard through the rumor mill that they're coming [this way].”