The concept of the “speakeasy” bar dates back to the days of Prohibition in the United States. From 1920-1933, it was illegal to sell or produce alcohol in almost every U.S. State. This, of course, didn’t stop people from drinking – the drinking just had to go underground.
Hence the rise of the speakeasy, or hidden establishment that still served the illicit liquid. The name came from the fact that you were supposed to speak quietly about such a place, whether out in public or when actually inside it so you wouldn’t arise suspicion.
Speakeasies largely died off after Prohibition was lifted, until the trend has become cool again in the last decade. Today, you can find retro speakeasy bars in major cities all around the world.
And now there’s also one in Sandusky, Ohio.
Volstead Bar was opened in 2014 by a local couple who wanted to contribute to what’s being called the “New Sandusky renaissance.” In the last few years, Sandusky has become a Lake Erie destination in and of itself, finally separate from nearby Cedar Point. And additions like Volstead Bar give visitors a reason to not only stick around for a while, but also to keep coming back.
You can find Volstead Bar inside the Green Door Building on Water Street in downtown Sandusky. The building is “shrouded in Sandusky lore,” according to Volstead’s website, having been both an old winery and a brothel in the past.
Today, the bar side of the building lives up to speakeasy style. Unless you know where to look, you can easily walk right past the door, despite it being bright green. The only indication of there being anything inside is the small green “bar” sign just above the door.
In the window, you can also find some traditional speakeasy-style lights. There are five of them, and how they are illuminated reflects the seating situation inside. Five green lights means five or more open seats. Two green lights means two open seats. And a red light means the bar is full and you can’t come in.
Once you locate Volstead Bar and determine that there are open seats, you have to pass through a curtain to get into the small and cozy bar. And then the real work begins: choosing which of Volstead’s 52 craft cocktails to try.
Volstead Bar is not your average Ohio bar. You won’t find any run-of-the-mill beers or pre-packaged drink mixtures here. Just about everything is lovingly crafted by hand behind the bar after you order it (often by a bartender dressed in ’20s-style clothing), whether it’s an Old Fashioned, a Moscow Mule, or a New Orleans Gin Fizz that you’re after (the latter is my personal favorite).
If you’re looking for a place to grab a pre- or post-dinner drink in Sandusky that is within walking distance to all the new restaurants downtown, then Volstead Bar is the place to go.
If you can find that green door.
Where: 316 East Water Street