Volstead Speakeasy Bar in Sandusky

During our media trip with Lake Erie Shores and Islands, we got to hang out with brothers, Chad and Ryan Whaley from Green Door Mediaworks.

They worked as PR guys during the day and also worked together to create a speakeasy bar in Sandusky at night. They took our group to try a few of their specialty drinks on a night when the bar was closed to the public.

They not only share vocations they also share a love of surfing Lake Erie that I’ll be sharing about at a later time.

While on our trip, I posted a few pictures on Instagram and one of my friends commented that she didn’t know that Sandusky was cool??!!!

Well, Ryan and Chad are hoping to help change perceptions and bring more people downtown. I should also note that Ryan’s beautiful wife Nikki (pictured below) is also a big part of this labor of love.

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I asked Chad a few questions to help us learn a little more about Volstead and the history behind it.


What’s the story behind your bar’s name?

Coming up with a good name for anything is always hard, so since we were creating a throwback-type establishment already, we looked to Prohibition history for the answer.  

The National Prohibition Act, known informally as the Volstead Act, was enacted to carry out the intent of the Eighteenth Amendment, which established prohibition in the United States. The Anti-Saloon League‘s Wayne Wheeler conceived and drafted the bill, which was named for Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who managed the legislation.

 What makes Volstead unique?

I think there are two main aspects that make the Volstead unique. Prohibition-style bars and speakeasies tend to exist only in larger cities. The fact that one now resides in Sandusky, a relatively small town comparatively speaking, is pretty cool.  

Second, comes the history and nature of the building.  Housed in what was the old Dorn Winery and later the Green Door brothel, the building is shrouded in Sandusky lore and has seen an array of tenants throughout the years.  Oh if these walls could talk.

Why did you decide on a prohibition theme?  

The art of the cocktail is coming back and some of the best libations were created before Prohibition.  

People are now rediscovering its taste for handcrafted cocktails and we not only found it interesting but wanted to somehow be a part of it.

What are your most popular drinks? 

Without question, our most popular drink is the Moscow Mule.  

Served correctly in a copper mug that combines Tito’s Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, the Mule’s popularity is simply unmatched.  

The Sazerac, however, is up there as well and just happens to be the bartender’s favorite.  Start with an Absinthe rinse, add Bulleit Rye, a sugar cube, and Peychaud’s Bitters, garnish it with lemon zest and you have a New Orleans-inspired cocktail that will put a smile on even the most discerning patron’s face.

What’s it like working with your brother?  

 We have so much fun behind the bar working together, it honestly can hardly be considered work.  Throwing one-liners and jokes around, poking fun at each other’s bartending habits, sometimes it can be quite the spectacle.  Ultimately though, we work extremely well together and have a lot of fun doing it.  Between upstairs at the Public Relations firm and downstairs in the bar, we almost see more of one another than our significant others.

Who is the better bartender?

I think if you’d ask each one of us that question in private, you’d get two very different answers (Can I insert a laugh here?).

While I’ve been bartending at several different establishments and have a longer bartending tenure, Ryan spends more hours down the Volstead and has more time devoted towards the cocktail crafting side of things.  So how about we just call this one a draw?

What do you love about the Sandusky area?  

While it’s easy to speak highly of the place you were raised in, Sandusky has real charm, not to mention a fantastic location.

 I’ve always said summers in Sandusky are nearly impossible to beat and I still believe it to this day.  You’ve got islands in Lake Erie, boating, surfing, skiing, Cedar Point, a great foodie scene and tavern scene, an immeasurable amount of sunny days – as you can see the list goes on.

And I can’t forget to mention the people.  We have such a great community here and I love the midwestern mentality.  Hard-working yet hard playing, very sincere and down to earth.  We know exactly what it’s like to trudge through a cold Lake Erie winter so we appreciate the change in seasons that much more.

What positive changes are you noticing in downtown Sandusky?

While I touched on it a bit in the last question, in the last seven years or so Sandusky has seen a real renaissance.  

Older buildings are being restored all over the city, great new restaurants are popping up every year and the attitude of the entire city seems to be progressing towards newer and fresher ideas.

What are your favorite places in Sandusky to visit?

Unbelievably tough question considering my list is too long to fit on this page, but I’ll give it a try.  

Dockside Cafe for perch tacos and freighter-on-the-bay Rum Punch buckets (just ask if you’re ever there), SmallCity Taphouse for sushi and craft beer, Shoreline Park for a bayside sunset walk, and Pipe Creek Wildlife Area for kayaking.  I really could keep going but I’d be writing for a half-hour, so the abridged version will just have to do.

During our visit, I tried a Moscow Mule for the 1st time.  The copper mug makes the drink extra cold and the taste was light and refreshing!

What You Need to Know About Volstead Bar Before You Go

You should also know that Volstead Bar is a cozier bar which means that seating is limited to around 24 seats.

The bar is also intentionally discreet from street view.

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They’ve developed a system to let patrons know if there is room.

 A green light above the door means that 5 or more seats are open and a red light means that there is no seating available.  

Volstead Bar is open Tuesday – Friday 4-11 and 2-12 on Saturday.

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Volstead Bar is located at 316 East Water Street, Sandusky, Ohio.  You can connect with them on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. 

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