RVA’s newest pop-up bar is an immersive and dynamic night-life experience with changing themes that are sure to bring out the childhood imagination in us all.
Located in the Arts District on W Broad St, Switch RVA is the grown-up playground we’ve all been waiting for. Switch brings a distinct theme to each of its two floors, with such detailed décor you’ll think you’re in a dream. From wall murals that glow in blacklight to complex curated cocktails, every part of Switch is about the creative design. So I sat down with the Creative Director, Crystal Shah, to get inside the mind behind the madness.
When bringing the concept of a pop-up bar with changing themes to Richmond, Shah wanted to ensure that everything was completely customizable — a project where everyone can come in and be on the same playing ground to share the experience regardless of where you’re from.
The top floor’s current theme is “The Rabbit Glass,” and it’s a fascinating take on Alice in Wonderland; surely the only bar the Mad Hatter himself would see fit for a tea party. Shah and her team of local artists and creators sifted through numerous ideas for the debut theme but ultimately decided on The Rabbit Glass in order to bring all ages (over 21, that is) together on common ground.
The iconic and time-honored pop culture status of Alice In Wonderland made the process both effortless and fun. “It was so easy to bring to life,” said Shah. “This was like cake.”
The larger-than-life mushroom cushion seats, the mural of the familiar and mischievous Cheshire cat, and the wall of carefully mismatched clocks are just a few of the art installations that provide a whimsical and welcoming atmosphere. There’s even a life-sized rabbit hole over the stairs leading to the basement.
Once you reach the basement, the “Back in 93” theme takes over. Greeting visitors with a portrait of the Notorious B.I.G., a neon sign that reads “Lets Get Weird” surrounded by VHS tapes, and a mural of Pinky and the Brain behind the bar, the lower floor of Switch is a trippy time machine. From the décor to the intricate cocktail menus, each floor has its own distinct vibe. Shah explained that everything is designed around promoting the elements of the senses; the visual design, the ambiance, and even the cocktails are designed for not only the palette, but the experience.
About those cocktails. Upstairs in Wonderland, you could sip on “Advice from a Caterpillar,” a tempting mix of rum, mezcal, and blue curacao with CBD oil and a hint of dry ice for a finish of fog that is sure to impress your Instagram followers. Or keep it short and sweet with a “Drink Me” shooter, served in the same corked bottle that sent Alice down the rabbit hole. If you’re drinking with friends, why not share and order a “Hendricks Tea Party,” which is fit for four and served in a teapot.
Downstairs in the 90’s, you could enjoy a “Losing my Religion,” made with sangria and fruit, or try an “Axl Frose” out of a glass that’s wearing a tiny red bandana. Both menus offer mocktails as well, so even your designated driver will be glad they came. With the smallest details, like an edible flower or a cheshire cat smile imprint, atop of your drink, it’s clear that each drink you order at Switch has its own story behind it. Shah said that she personally spent time making the ceramic bunny glass that holds “The White Rabbit” cocktail — even figuring out exactly how wide the bunny’s cheeks needed to be.
The attention to detail throughout the whole bar is truly immaculate. Just when you think you’ve seen all it has to offer, you look up to see tea-kettle chandeliers, and think, “Wow, they’ve really thought of everything.” According to Shah, the intent really is to create an interactive art gallery. After being welcomed into the Arts District, Shah was very happy to involve the community as much as possible.
A week after opening, Switch offered “Cocktails for Cause,” donating a portion of bar sales to FeedMore and Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN). The former is a Central Virginia charity distributing food to people in need, and the latter is a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse in the Greater Richmond Area. Shah believes that these fundraisers are important because at least one or two of the people coming in have been personally touched by these particular nonprofits. Involving the community is “just what we do and what we’ll continue to do,” said Shah. “Giving back is huge.”
If you’re not sold on this place yet, I saved the best for last: happy hour. Switch offers $4 beers, $5 Wines, $3 off select handcrafted cocktails, and mouth-watering beer bites for just $5. Every Tuesday-Friday from 5-8pm you can enjoy a beer and a bite for under $10, with no cover charge and free valet parking beginning at 6pm. If you’re in the mood for a good Sunday funday, Soul Taco takes over the kitchen every Sunday evening, serving delicious eats to get you through your week.
There are a ton of reasons to visit Switch, but the main reason you simply have to give this place a visit is that all the curiosity of “The Rabbit Hole” and nostalgia of “Back in 93” themes will eventually be gone. Switch opened with a promise of fascinating yet temporary themes, and they have no intention of breaking that promise. The effort that went into their debut themes is just a hint what’s to come. While the future themes of Switch are under lock and key, Shah did provide assurance that we can look forward to a full redesign in the near future. “The only thing you can expect is for the bar to stay in its place,” she said. “Everything else will be switched.”
Switch RVA is located at 13 W. Broad St. in the Richmond Arts District. Visit them online at switchrva.com.