Drinks and a show: 5 Athens bars with live music

Athens has never been accused of having too few places to drink. If anything, it could very well be the opposite. One way to wade through the pool of choices is to know what you want in a drinking establishment. So if you like live music, boy do we have five bars for you.

1. Casa Nueva

casa nueva

The first on the list is Casa, a local favorite known for its good food to pair with your drink. Casa has been known to draw bands from all over Ohio and surrounding states. This is the place to see upcoming bands that show promise. While the establishment is more spacy than others on this list, the stage is front and center and provides good sound for the whole joint. They also offer good specials, including one dollar PBR’s on Tuesday. Casa is one of the classier establishments on the list, and the visitors here tend to be adults, or at least older students. If you’re looking for a tamer atmosphere that’s still fun, this is the place for you.


2. Red Brick

red brick

The Red Brick Tavern has a reputation for being a bar where younger students go, but don’t let that stop you. They have an entire room downstairs devoted to live music, complete with a stage up front and a bar in the back. The bands that play there differ, and you don’t always have to pay a cover, which is a plus. They stage is also separate from the rest of the bar, which means that, on a crowded night, you might get some breathing room if you’re there to see the show. Also, don’t forget about karaoke on Wednesday, where you have the chance to be the star of the show. My advice would be to wait until everyone’s had a few dinks though.

3. Jackie O’s

jackie o's

In Athens, Jackie O’s is synonymous with craft beer. Their micro brewery is lauded throughout the state and their selection is probably the most diverse on this list. Their arguably most popular brew is called Mystic Mama, so be sure to order one if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Like Casa, Jackie O’s draws bigger names than other bars and you can usually bet on a good show. In short, you come for the great beer and stay for the good music.

4. The Union


Not to be outdone by anyone, the Union is another great venue to hear bands. They have as many local bands as out of town ones. Some have called it a hipster bar, but I’ve never seen that personally. I could not in good conscience send you to a hipster bar. There is one small problem, however. It burnt down last year. The reason it is still included in this list is because so many people choose this bar as their go-to haunt and they are in the process of rebuilding. Those with patience will not regret returning to the Union for a good show once it reopens in the future.

5. Smiling Skull Saloon

Photo By LeeAnn Marhevsky
Photo By LeeAnn Marhevsky

While some may turn their nose up at the Skull, it does have a certain atmosphere that some find enjoyable. The Skull is unashamedly rough and could never be mistaken for more upscale places such as Casa Nueva. They do offer some local entertainment, usually at least twice a month. The stage, while small, offers an intimate seat for everyone in the house. Fair warning, it will get loud. Most of the bands that play there are local so it’s a great place to hear new bands that aren’t as known. Like Jackie O’s, they also offer their own craft beer, called Skull Ale. However, tread lightly. Rumor has it nobody who tried Skull Ale has ever been seen again.