Rambling House reopening with new look, same vibes

Staffers Adam Himmel and Paige Vandiver discuss the Hudson Street venue's facelift after closing its doors for more than a year

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
The Rambling House

After closing its doors for around 500 days due to the pandemic, the Rambling House is finally reopening this week, and when it does, the bar and music venue will look and feel a little different.  

“It's like Rambling House went on a really good workout program throughout the pandemic. It's showing back up in the world eating clean and really on top of itself,” said Adam Himmel, the venue’s logistics and content manager.  

Rambling House General Manager Paige Vandiver has overseen the renovations, which include updates to the patio area that opened six months before the pandemic hit; new flooring; lighter paint colors on the walls to brighten and visually enlarge the small space; a new air conditioning unit and ceiling fans to cool the place down in the summer; and changes to the stage area. 

“We wanted to highlight the stage a lot more, so we blacked out that stage, and we’ve got such a great production team who’ve been working on lighting so that we can now showcase the artists so much more,” Vandiver said. “It really does draw your eye to the stage. That was a big one.” 

The Rambling House, mid-renovation.

On Thursday, July 8, longtime Rambling House mainstay the Relentless Mules will christen the new stage, followed by West Taylor on Friday, Fialla on Saturday and Knot Brothers on Sunday. Advance tickets for those shows and other upcoming concerts are available here. Vandiver and Himmel said the venue will open at a slightly reduced capacity, but they’re not putting a specific number on it; crowd size will vary depending on the show, which could be general admission, seated or a combination of both.  

“We might get 70 people in there for a general admission show, and it'll be perfectly fine to space everybody out. But if we're doing a seated-only show, then that's going to lower the amount of people that we can have in there,” said Vandiver, adding that the Rambling House waited so long to reopen because of the venue’s small size, which makes social distancing difficult.  

During the pandemic, Rambling House regularly hosted bands for livestream events, which the venue may eventually reincorporate. “We spent so much time solving for these weird technical problems to get [the livestreams] worked out, and having the option now is going to allow us to book some bigger bands in the long run,” said Himmel, who noted that Lindsay Jordan and James Wooster will continue booking the musical acts. “If we can provide a really strong, really efficient, really beautiful livestream, then I think there are bands that will want to be able to give that experience to people.” 

Experimenting with the livestreams also enabled the venue to branch out beyond the bluegrass and folk acts the bar is known for, incorporating rock and soul performers, and Himmel and Vandiver said the Rambling House will continue to diversify its musical offerings in person.  

Returning visitors will also notice a new mural outside the bar by artist Lisa McLymont, who illustrated a quote from Ma Rainey: “Let your soul do the singin.’” 

But even with all the forward-looking changes (including a revamped system to get drinks out quicker), Himmel and Vandiver said the Rambling House will still have the same warm, approachable charm that regulars came to love over the past decade. “We're doing a lot to update, but I still want to keep that vibe that we always had,” Vandiver said. “I just want to turn it from a clubhouse into more of a legit bar.”