The Switchboard Downtown bar with drinks, art, music and more
Open since May 2021 at 912 Monroe Street, sharing a building with Culture Clash Records, The Switchboard has made a name for itself in the downtown Toledo bar scene. More than just a bar, however, it’s a place with an eclectic appeal that’s not always easy to define — in a good way. The vibe can be artsy but not pretentious, and events run the gamut from football matches to art exhibits that promote up-and-coming local artists.
Owner Shaun Hoover explains that the name Switchboard comes from the fact that the building has lots of old telephone wires and also has a history as a former gangster hideout. Now he plans for it to be a place where people can connect and be creative. “I want to make it a place where people feel welcome, feel at home, and have fun too,” Hoover said.
“When people come here for the first time, they are a little surprised that there is a bar. We own a third of the building, including a patio that we use in the summer as a performance space. I lived here 14 years and a lot has changed, it’s not downtown anymore, there are things to do that allow for more connectivity. I think it will continue to build and help Toledo become a much more cohesive and energetic city.
The bar, still relatively young, wants to be inventive and offers a bit of everything, for everyone. Right now, they’re just having fun seeing what sticks. Hoover is delighted to combine art exhibits with the bar area. “I really want to celebrate the arts here,” he said, “so I gave part of the building to Jerry Gray for something called Just Jerry’s where he puts on a new art show every two months with local artists.”
Live music is a big draw at the Switchboard, and Hoover wants to feature all kinds of music, from bands to DJs spinning everything from dance to reggae. There’s even a bring your own vinyl night.
“Our cocktail list is authentic to our bar,” Hoover added. “Right now we have about 10 specialty drinks that our bartenders make. We always have local beers on tap like Earnest Brew Works, and will be adding more local craft beers to our menu.
The bar also takes a refreshing collaborative approach with its bartenders, allowing them to come up with specialty drink ideas. Cocktails with names like Boris the Blade, Bullet Tooth Tony, Frankie Four Fingers and Sneaky Pete hark back to the gangster days of the 1930s.
Hoover has its roots in another of Northwest Ohio’s iconic bars. “I worked at Village Idiot in Maumee for 12 years. I loved being a bartender and always imagined myself owning my own bar and creating something that was truly my own, so I took a leap of faith and I decided it would be something I would get involved in.
A schoolteacher by day and bar owner by night, Hoover teaches social studies at Woodward High School. He’s also a former football manager, so it’s no coincidence that The Switchboard has become a place where football fans can congregate and watch games together.
The secret to enjoying opening your own bar and sharing it with everyone? “Be a little different, creative, goofy, and people get hooked on it,” Hoover said. “On Wednesdays we watch Lifetime Originals and everyone tries to guess the plot. There’s a lot of comebacks on TV because the shows are so bad they’re good.
Open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday; 3pm-midnight, Friday; Noon-midnight, Saturday; Noon-8 p.m., Sunday. 912 Monroe Street switchboard419.com