Columbus, Ohio USA
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Blazer's Opens Door to Everyone
By W. David Hall
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See Also: Photos: Dog Connection Benefit 2011
What makes a pub a pub?
Is it the pool table, electronic dartboard, and ATM machine inside? The friendly, talkative bartender? The ease of the locals as they greet each other? The decorations on the wall, including a pair of mannequin legs adorned in fishnet stocking?
When asked what makes Blazer's Pub a pub, Karen Blazer, owner and operator of the bar, simply gives a half smile and shrugs.
“It's just a diversified bar,“ Blazer said. “Everyone's welcome. Everybody's money spends the same. These days, it takes everybody's dime to survive.”
Diversity and variety are loyal customers at Blazer's Pub, located on High Street, just a few doors south of 5th Avenue. Squeezed in among a furniture store, a pagan shop, and a storefront ministry, the pub can be hard to spot. But when you finally find the rainbow lights in the front window, it is well worth a trip inside.
Blazer's offers a variety of fun and games almost every night of the week. If you fancy singing karaoke versions of Stealer's Wheel “Stuck In The Middle With You” or Loretta Lynn's “Coalminer's Daughter,” drop by Thursday and Saturday nights. If you like a good electronic dart challenge, then Wednesdays are your day. For pool players, Blazer's hosts an in-house pool tournament on Tuesdays. There is also dollar-a-beer night, usually connected, Blazer said, with OSU games, as well as other cheap beer nights.
These theme nights add a bit of spice to any given evening, but the real reason to come to Blazer's is the community of patrons. Think of Cheers, the quintessential bar comedy of the 1980 and 90's. Then think of a few lines from the theme song (“You want to be where you can see, troubles are all the same. You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”) Now you have a sense of the place. Of course, you may not bend elbows with Norm or trade one-liners with Frasier, but you will get a good drink at a good price with some good conversation, with topics ranging from work woes to friends being hospitalized to mother-in-law jokes. Like everything else about Blazer's, there's a little something for everyone.
Except, Blazer adds, with that half-smile and a chuckle, religion and politics.
“The way I see it, you are on that side of the bar and you're drinking,” she said. “That doesn't make it a good idea for me to talk about those things.”
Karen Blazer's commitment to the community goes beyond just serving the locals a cold one. The bar also acts as headquarters for The Dyke Queens, a song-and-dance troupe that raise money for charities such as the FACES program at Children's Hospital. According to Kat and Teresa, two members of the group and Blazer's regulars, the group does spoofs of songs and dances from the 1950s through the new millennium, complete with costumes and stages, lighting and sound, all run by volunteers. They are quite successful, too, having raised upwards of $20,000 over the past seven years, every dime of which, said Teresa, goes right to the pockets of those who need it the most.
Giving the money away is a “three-step process to see the real level of need,” explained Teresa. “It's all done anonymously as well. Gay, straight, it doesn't matter. We help whomever we can help.”
While the Dyke Queens are all about song, dance, and humor (“We laugh at ourselves,” said Kat. “There's nothing funnier than a dyke trying to wear high heels.”), their reasons for helping are very serious. Several years ago, “Hambone,” a friend of Blazer's and others in the community, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 42. While in the hospital for treatment, someone broke into her home and stole her television set, VCR, and a few other things. The Queens got together, raised some money, and replaced Hambone's stolen items. Two weeks later, Hambone was dead.
“Here we had her new stuff and we had money left over and we asked her what to do with it,” said Blazer, “and she told us to donate it. After she died, we thought we'd just keep doing that, raising money and donating it.” Blazer herself doesn't perform, but supports the group by allowing them access to the bar every Sunday morning to practice for shows.
The building that is now Blazer's Pub started out in the early 20th century as Isaly's Ice Cream Shop, changing hands a few times before coming to rest with Blazer. Blazer herself had done some factory work and had been employed in a few bars before finding her current post. That was almost ten years ago, and both Blazer and the building have seen a lot of change in downtown Columbus and in the pub business. But neither the pub nor the person behind the bar show any signs of slowing down or giving up.
In fact, some of the positive karma has come back to Blazer. The bar is set to get a “facelift,” according to Karen. All of the bar memorabilia will be taken down and the walls will get a makeover, moving from drab gray to a lighter shade of blue. The painters, two Blazer's regulars, have decided to donate their time and labor. All the bartender has to do is buy the paint.
“See, this is everybody kind of helping each other out,” Blazer said.
And nowhere is that more true than at Blazer's Pub.
Blazer's Pub, 1205 N. High St., closed September 2011
©2004 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
Page Updated 1-31-2012
See Also: Photos: Dog Connection Benefit 2011