The Switchboard Downtown bar with drinks, art, music and more

Robert Cryan with Jen Deyton

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, though, 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 watching soccer matches to art shows that promote emerging local artists. 

Owner Shaun Hoover explains that the name Switchboard came from the fact that the building has a lot of old telephone wires and also has a history as an old gangster safehouse. 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 welcomed, feel at home, and have fun too,” Hoover said. 

“When people come here for the first time, they’re a little surprised there’s a bar. We own a third of the building, including a patio we utilize in the summer as a performance space. I’ve lived here 14 years and a lot has changed, it’s not tumbleweeds downtown anymore, there are things to do which makes for more connectivity. I think that’s going to continue to build and help Toledo become a much more cohesive, energetic city.”

Growing up

The bar, still a relatively new venue,  aspires to be inventive and offer a little bit of everything, for everyone. Right now, they’re having fun just seeing what sticks. Hoover is excited to combine art shows with the bar space.  “I really want to celebrate the arts down here,” he said, “so I gave one portion 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, whether it’s bands or DJ’s who spin 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 around ten specialty drinks that our bartenders make. We always have local beers on tap like Earnest Brew Works,  and we will be adding other locally crafted beers to our menu.” 

The bar also takes a refreshingly collaborative approach with its bartenders, allowing them to offer up ideas on specialty drinks. Cocktails with names like Boris the Blade, Bullet Tooth Tony, Frankie Four Fingers and Sneaky Pete harken back to the days of 1930s gangsters.

Former Idiot

Hoover has roots in another of northwest Ohio’s iconic bars. “I worked at The Village Idiot in Maumee for 12 years. I loved bartending and I always envisioned myself owning my own bar and creating something that’s really my own, so I took a leap of faith and decided that this would be something I’d commit myself to.” 

A schoolteacher by day and a bar owner by night, Hoover teaches Social Studies at Woodward High School. He also is a former soccer coach, so it’s no coincidence that The Switchboard has gained a following as a place for soccer fans to gather and watch games together. 

The secret to enjoying opening your own bar and sharing it with everyone? “Be a little bit different, creative, zany and people latch on to it,” said Hoover. “On Wednesdays we watch Lifetime original movies and everybody tries to guess the plot. There’s a lot of talking back to the TV because the shows are so bad, they’re good.” 

Open 5-10pm, Tuesday-Thursday; 3pm-midnight, Friday; Noon-midnight, Saturday; Noon-8pm, Sunday. 912 Monroe St. switchboard419.com