Joni’s Place at 2280 W. Henderson Rd used to run this weekly promotion called Sink Or Swim whereby you could show up and pay a flat amount to drink as much as you wanted of anything for a certain number of hours. Unfortunately, within a few years of creating this promo, it would seem our incorrigible bunch of regular boozers drank them right underwater. The bar sank, while the rest of us, however drunkenly, managed to swim to shore.
Just kidding. Sort of. I don’t know for a fact that this is what happened. But it was definitely a sad day when Joni’s went out of business. My first ever visit to Joni’s will occur later the same night as that initial Pockets Sports Bar foray. Doug and I drop Mike off at their apartment on Bethel Rd, and attempt to find this place. We waste a great deal of time searching for Doug’s number one dive bar, his best kept secret. Doug isn’t too hip on directions and I haven’t the foggiest notion where we’re headed.
Up here in Arlington even these major roads are alien landscapes to me, where I have a vague sense of direction guiding me but little else.
“You mind if I smoke this?” Doug asks, whipping out a joint.
“That’s cool, but roll down the window,” I tell him.
As he puffs away, we’re cruising down Kenny past Pockets, and into some sleepy, capital drenched residential section. Out here, the houses stand alone in splendid isolation, their gargantuan yards maintained in cold, crystalline perfection, the evenly spaced security lights like moonbeams illuminating these houses as if distant mountaintops. Slithering through this pristine gauntlet, I’m reminded of a master’s run at some prominent art gallery, where each portrait is slightly different yet obviously rendered by the same hand. We turn around and return, hang a left on Henderson, eventually finding our point of destination. Located in the last strip of businesses before this road rolls into the countryside west of town, we park at Joni’s, make our way indoors.
A standard neighborhood pub with cover bands on weekends and little room to maneuver, Joni’s holds no women to speak of beyond one or two middle aged harlots, passed around through the decades like a trusty beachball at your favorite football team’s home games. Sitting at the bar, we’re checking out this middling four piece Nowhere Fast, as they pull off credible versions of a Cheap Trick tune and The End by those beloved Doors, whereby the lead singer mimes Jim Morrison to a tee, even down to writhing around on the floor. I have one beer to Doug’s three and we lament the loss of the pool table, covered over on what passes as the dance floor here whenever a band’s in the house.
“I smoked a joint with the bartender the last time I was here,” Doug explains.
When Doug’s intoxicated he gets these funny looking droopy eyelids going, ones I marvel at to think he can even see through. His pupils refuse to focus and just before closing time, as we leave the bar, he develops his half eyes which signals to me that it’s time to take him home. Hilariously enough one of Doug’s first speeches – outside of this whole bit about not dating married women – involved coming to Columbus to clean up his act a bit. But it seems that slowing down just isn’t in the cards for him, a feat easier discussed than managed.
The old lady who owned this place, Joan Marx, died in 2016. Upon its closing, the space was converted first to UA Pub, and then its current incarnation of Cbus Sports Pub. I haven’t ventured inside since it was Joni’s, but the building’s exterior hasn’t changed one whit, with its Tudor second floor and faded brick bottom. And though I never knew this when frequenting the place and she was alive, according to her obituary, it seems that Joan Marx was yet another relocated Mansfielder, in a city positively swimming with them.