Tucked away beneath Moe’s BBQ on South Lamar Boulevard, Penny Bar attracts people from all walks of life. In an unconventional location, the divey bar offers a host of late-night activities for visitors, including trivia nights, open mics, bingo and monthly TED Talk-style chats featuring guest speakers.
Owner John Allgood strives to create a unique environment where members of the Oxford community can relax.
“It’s kind of a little hideout sort of bar off the beaten path and downstairs,“ Allgood said. ”It’s a little different than the other places that you can find readily available around here.”
In 2016, Allgood had the idea to revitalize the downstairs bar area. Penny Bar got its name from the top of the bar, which is home to 17,542 pennies — plus one hidden dime. This creative bar top is just one unique aspect of the venue.
“We get a really fun mix of people. We have some from an older crowd who are kind of your locals. Then, you’ll get a lot of the service industry people,” Allgood said. “We also get a lot of the college kids to come in. It’s a nice mix and you see them all kind of mingling with each other and having fun.”
Open mic night is one of the most popular parts of Penny Bar culture. Ayric Bradley serves as the emcee, using his position to warm up the crowd and encourage audience members to sign up if they are interested in speaking.
“I have been through a lot in my life — whether it was battling homelessness as a teen with my mother or times I had gotten in trouble,” Bradley said. ”Comedy allows me to use my life experience to tell stories so that maybe someone else who is going through things can hear it and know they aren’t in it alone. It’s jokes, yeah, but a lot of the time those jokes come from somewhere real.”
Penny Bar’s open mic spurs creativity and community.
“Open mic comedy gives people a chance to come have a couple of laughs, a couple of drinks and if they feel like they want to share a story they can,“ Bradley said. ”A place with such rich history like Oxford, there is always a story to tell here.”
Even after performing at open-mic nights all over the state, Bradley coined the Penny Bar as home.
“What separates Penny Bar from all the places in the past where I have been and the places in the future where I will go is, this is home. For a person like me, home is a big thing,“ Bradley said. ”They have given me a place to cultivate this mic and call it home, and when I’m no longer the host and have found what I define as success in comedy, I plan on still coming back to Penny Bar and doing that open mic and never forgetting where it made me.”