July 30, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Switch is the new downtown pop-up bar that’s always changing.

click to enlarge Downstairs at Switch, the theme is 1993, with old-school cartoon characters painted behind the bar and ’90s-inspired cocktails.

Dave Parrish

Downstairs at Switch, the theme is 1993, with old-school cartoon characters painted behind the bar and ’90s-inspired cocktails.

Suffer from fear of missing out? If so, brace yourself and get down to Switch, a new pop-up bar on Broad Street, on the regular. For the unfamiliar, a pop-up can be a retail spot, restaurant or bar that's a short-term affair aimed to pique curiosity and engagement. Blink, and you'll miss it.

Currently, you can step inside the Rabbit Glass, a trippy nod to "Alice in Wonderland" complete with woozy, clock-flanked walls, wacky card tables and toadstool chairs, many of which were cobbled in-house by the Switch team. A glowing Cheshire-cat grin presides over the party, a mural courtesy of Loose Screw Tattoo's Jesse Smith.

Sip on curious libations garnished with things as varied as glitter, edible flowers and dry ice. The smoking, CBD-infused Advice From a Caterpillar tends to be one of the more popular choices. Single drinks cost between $6 and $14, while a party of four can swig on a $40 Hendrick's Tea Party, served in a teapot, of course. Slip down the rabbit hole, and you'll be back in '93, listening to old-school jams while shows like "In Living Color" loop on the television and sipping on a boozy Ectocooler.

Switch is the latest venture from Neal Patel and Kunal Shah's LX Group, a self-proclaimed lifestyle company that delivers experiences and high-profile events. They're the folks who brought Kabana and Belle to Richmond and have plans for a handful of other spots across the city. The pair teamed up with Switch's creative director, Crystal Shah, and Jay Sean, multiplatinum pop artist, to make the magic happen.

"I think of it as we're bringing a new art venue that happens to be interactive," Shah says.

The pop-up bar trend started back around 2015 when a few New York places did holiday-themed transformations around Christmas, which ultimately caught on in cities like Chicago, Atlanta and New Orleans. To the north of us, Washington folks wait in hour-long lines to sip on elaborately garnished spirits amid Cherry Blossom and "Game of Thrones" experiences, put on by Drink Co., which owns bars all over the city. We've even seen a little of this kind of thing in the River City, most recently with the Jasper's Christmas wonderland, Miracle on Cary Street, which plans to return this holiday due to its success.

Switch is a little different from all of these, the key difference being that a permanent venue will house two floors of ever-changing experiences. Albeit irresistible, is this kind of thing sustainable? The folks behind Switch say there's a method to their madness.

"We have so much art in our city, and this spot is right in the middle of the arts district," says Alisha Wieckmann, director of marketing for LX Group. "VCU's program is one of the top in the country and we're surrounded by amazing mural artists. We knew that the vibrant art community would enjoy something like this."

click to enlarge Alice in Wonderland-inspired decor includes a mural of the Cheshire Cat and whimsical furniture. - TYLER DARDEN
  • Tyler Darden
  • Alice in Wonderland-inspired decor includes a mural of the Cheshire Cat and whimsical furniture.

Beer and wine lovers be warned, the selection is minimal on both floors. Upstairs currently offers a handful of on-theme brews including Blue Mountain Brewery's Hopwork Orange IPA, a red and white wine while downstairs you'll find High Life ponies, prosecco splits and Biggie S'mores, a stout from Three Notch'd Brewing Co.

"The main focus is the hand-crafted cocktails," Wieckmann says.

This highly Instagrammable situation bodes well for those looking to be entertained beyond basic trivia and game nights. But can it hold up to fickle crowds, who have no shortage of options when it comes to local watering holes? Shah says what folks can't find elsewhere is letting your inner kid out in an immersive experience that's also mature.

"You have to pull that inner child out. It's the best of both worlds," she says."We're not pretentious. We don't have a set demographic. We'll always be a new bar in the same spot."

Just like with all things at Switch, we'll have to wait and see.

Switch Pop-Up Bar
13 W. Broad St.
Tuesdays – Thursdays 5 p.m. – midnight
Fridays and Saturdays 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Sundays 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
723-0480
facebook.com/switchrva

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