The Location: 210 S. First St. (two streets west of Main, between Liberty and Washington) Up the stairs, big red door.
Circus is the top fourth of the Cavern Club 'complex' (a total of 4 bars/clubs). During the week, Circus is segmented away from the rest of the bars, but on Friday and Saturday, all 4 can be accessed through a series of stairwells, though cover is required on these nights. Know for it's economical drinks, free pool at their 5 tables, and free popcorn.
Circus is known for it's very cheap PBR cans (yes, cans). While [oldpersonvoice]when I first started going there[/oldpersonvoice] the PBR was 55 cents, from open-1am, currently, the special runs from open-midnight, and the PBR is 75 cents. Apparently, after looking closely at the actual math of it, adding lost deposit on crushed cans, delivery, etc. they were losing money selling the Pibber's at $.55.
Other specials include $2 (one drink) Long Islands, $3 well drinks on Thursdays featuring mid-shelf 'well liquors' such as Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and Tanqueray, $1 Jolly Rancher shooters, and $2 Bud Light bottles.
Circus's calendar is as follows:
Sunday - Closed
Monday - Occasionally Double Take Karaoke, otherwise standard pool/jukebox (No Cover)
Tuesday - Standard Pool/Jukebox (No Cover)
Wednesday -Bluegrass night (No Cover)
Thursday - Double Take Karaoke (No Cover)
Friday - Occasionally Double Take Karaoke, otherwise standard pool/jukebox ($5 Cover, access to all of Cavern Club)
Saturday - Occasionally Double Take Karaoke, otherwise standard pool/jukebox ($5 Cover, access to all of Cavern Club)
On No Cover nights, those 18-20 can get in for a $5 cover fee and black 'X's on your hands.
(Be wary, they tend to watch under 21's very closely and will kick you out if you even sip a drink.)
Yeah, so I go to Circus religiously. It's a rare Thursday that I'm not seen there belting tunes with Double Take's live karaoke band. It's really a completely different experience to machine karaoke. Circus has the distinction of being one of the few bars in Ann Arbor who's patrons are largely non-students. This is a mixed blessing. While Circus is rarely too crowded on weekday to find a seat, there are some 'questionable characters' that frequent circus. The non-students at Circus aren't going to be your prof, and they aren't going to be middle management business suits. They're going to be sketchy townies and Yspilanti folk. Think less GRE, more GED. That's not to say most Circus patrons aren't nice people, it's just something to be aware of before you go.
One of the high points of Circus is the bar staff. Lou and Chris are exceptionally nice. Pretty standard fare, if you tip well, they treat you well. Just keep in mind that you're only paying $.75 a beer, so more than the standard 15% should be your norm. I'd generally put down about a buck for a beer. It's only a quarter, but it's still a 33% tip.
While I don't play pool that often (mainly because I'm terrible, and vice a versa), Circus has some pretty nice tables, especially considering they're free. The pool sticks are kind of hit or miss, so if you're an avid player, I'd recommend taking your own. You can get a table for an hour at a time (longer if there's no one waiting) by giving them your drivers licence as deposit. If it's a busier night, you may have to wait a while (I've never waited longer than about 15 minutes) until a table opens up.
Popcorn (or sometimes pretzels, if the popcorn machine is broken) is in bowls all around the bar. This tends to get stale by about 9:30. To get more/new popcorn, just go up to the bar, near the popcorn machine and grab a new bowl. These are generally fresh and crisp (and you know no one has stuck nasty dirty fingers into them).
No matter the night, Circus will have a movie with subtitles playing on a small TV next to the bar. On nights when nothing big is going on (Mondays/Tuesdays), they have been known to project movies on the wall and have the sound going. This is actually pretty fun, as you have all the popcorn you want and as much beer as you want within 15 feet of you. Oh, and it's free. Win-Win-Win. The movies they generally play are action and comedy flicks that have come out recently to DVD, or are 'modern classics' (my 'modern classics' are different that what you all would call them but I digress) such as Zoolander, Fight Club, Wedding Crashers, etc.
The only time Circus nears a 50/50 split between college students and townies is on Friday and Saturday. These nights, the entirety of Cavern Club is open, and Circus tends to get the less 'Dance Party' oriented patrons who got dragged to Cavern Club by their friends, along with a few of the Double Take regulars. I plan on doing a piece on the whole of Cavern Club a little later, so I'll leave that for now.
As you will eventually learn, I'm a big fan of dank, dingy bars. Circus fits the bill. It's dark, occasionally smokey (occasionally with non-tobacco products), and has a cool, slightly weird decor. Covered in a Barnum and Bailey motif, it's certainly a unique place. The only real bright-ish part of the bar is 'under the big top' of the actual bar. This, and the fact that there are tables, a TV, bands, and pool give Circus a 'come as you please' atmosphere. Some people go there every night, just for the pool, and never sign karaoke, or sit around and chat. Others come just to hang out, or just to sing karaoke. I give Circus four stars. It's a fantastic hangout spot. If you haven't already, check it out.