There was only one thing to know about SWITCH, downtown’s newest bar, in the year leading up to their opening: it was going to be a pop-up bar. That was it, but that was enough to keep RVA interested. As we waited for more information, a theme, any detail that would help tide us over until the doors opened, SWITCH kept everything under wraps. The longer SWITCH stayed quiet, the bigger the list of questions got. Would the first theme be a tribute to a cult classic or a holiday? Would they fully commit? Would it live up to the hype that had built up inside all of our heads?
The mystery created around this secretive space had driven me to the edge of my patience when I received an invitation to attend their soft opening last week. As I finally entered the door at 13 W. Broad after months of wondering, I found out that SWITCH had been worth the wait.
On SWITCH’s first floor is a wonderland setting that may look familiar. The Rabbit Glass, the first theme to come from SWITCH, is complete with life-size mushrooms, a Cheshire cat smoking from a glow-in-the-dark hookah, and a rabbit hole that leads you to a surprise below the bar's stunning surface. The dizzying decor made of mismatched chairs, clocks, and colors creates the feeling that you've come off of Broad Street and into your favorite storybook.
A pop-up bar is nothing without a cocktail menu to match. Lucky for SWITCH, they feature everything from CBD oil and dry ice in drinks to a tea party fit for four, kettle included. Sure to be one of their most popular is The White Rabbit – a sweet, vegan concoction topped off with heart shaped sprinkles and a flamingo straw accessory in a cup that will make you question if you’re late for a very important date with every sip. If you’re looking for the sparkliest of shooters, Drink Me is a must. Served in a vial, Drink Me is a pink potion that will keep you on-theme for only $6.
Advice From a Caterpillar may be their most ambitious menu item – it features blue curacao that gives the drink it’s bright color, a gummy worm on the rim, and is topped off with a few drops of CBD oil and dry ice that gives the drink an extra element of magic and mist. Finish off your time upstairs with a Happy UnBirthday Tea made with house-made Madd Hatters juice and served in a floral teacup before you fall down the rabbit hole and end up back in 1993.
The downstairs theme, Back to '93, is to The Rabbit Glass what Mary-Kate is to Ashley Olsen, a combination that shouldn't make sense, but ends up being a perfect fit. The walls underground are adorned with murals of Biggie, Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, Madonna, and my personal favorite, Daria in Scully cosplay courtesy of RVA's own Night Owl, Mickael Broth. On walls without murals, no detail is spared. Teenage heartthrobs are assembled in a collage that mimics many of our own childhood bedroom walls and beams are decorated with every essential VHS for a movie marathon at a sleepover. A screen in the bar's background plays iconic 90's movies while the speakers play a soundtrack that features the best of the decade and acts as a perfect match against the nostalgic vibes that fill the space.
I knew once I saw the Are You Afraid of the Dark & Stormy cocktail on the menu that SWITCH's second theme, Back in '93, was not going to disappoint. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink to help transition you back to the days of The Rachel haircut and walkmans, look no further than the Ectocooler – a bright lime-colored tang that will make you reflect on all the discontinued soft drinks of days past (RIP Surge). Once you feel like one of the shiny, happy people holding hands, try Losing My Religion, a mixed sin-gria served with a communion cracker on top that is sure to make R.E.M proud.
If you want to stick with the theme of 90's music, the Axl Frosé is a frozen drink decorated with a red bandana that pays homage to the Guns N’ Roses frontman and the Macarena, a one-hit-wonder drink full of tropical flavors that will make you feel like you’re back at your aunt’s first wedding. If the nostalgia of the '93 theme doesn’t hit you, their drink menu will definitely have you travelling back in time.
After getting my first look at SWITCH, I got to dig a little deeper with Alisha Wieckmann of LX Group to find out how they decided on bringing SWITCH downtown. “The Arts District was a big factor in selecting where we opened. Our space is immersed in arts and artists, so what better district to be a part of? This area has a sense of community and we want to support that.” When asked if they had engaged the Richmond arts community while bringing SWITCH’s themes to life, Alisha answered that “Richmond is known for its street art, which made it easy to find amazing artists, local and national, to create our murals, but our art doesn’t stop there. All art installs, concepts and cocktails were created by our in-house team and led by our curator and managing partner, Crystal Shah, to make sure that everything, from the names to taste, match each theme.”
On whether we can expect any community-focused efforts from SWITCH, Alisha replied that their goal is to “help expose the talent we have locally, while also bringing in other artists not familiar to the city. SWITCH is not unlike nearby art exhibitions, we don’t charge admission and we ask that you experience our space and everything inside it. Guests can also expect things like auction closing parties and charity fundraisers in the future. We want to not only create an experience, but give back to the community at the same time.”
SWITCH is located at 13 West Broad Street, across from the Arts District Pulse station, offers FREE valet parking from 6-11 PM, and opens at 5PM Tuesday-Saturday.
Photos by Dave Parrish Photography / Special Thanks to SWITCH & LX Group!