On the surface, it seems impossible to envision a “bar” without alcohol. Traditionally, they have always been known as drinking establishments; where people can mingle, dance, play games and socialize. But do you really need booze to do all of those things? That’s a question that many young business owners are asking and they’re finding their answers in a trend called Sober Bars.
Encompassing exactly what they claim to be, these bars are gaining popularity throughout the world and thrive off the premise of being an alcohol-free environment. The movement has become so trendy, in fact, that major outlets (like our homegrown news station, KTLA) are covering their rise in popularity. Several thriving businesses have been profiled, with owners explaining their concepts and success stories.
In Austin, Texas, for example, the Sans Bar has become something of a phenomenon. Packed on a nightly basis, they still add a lot of mixology into their menu, just minus the alcohol. Their “mocktails” include specialties like non-alcoholic white wine, sake and cranberries in a sugar rimmed glass (one of the patrons’ favorites). There are also alcohol-free IPAs and activities just like any other bar across the country; such as dance floors, karaoke, arcade machines and more.
“A lot of people just want to drink less,” Chris Marshall, Sans Bar’s founder, told KTLA. “There are a lot of people, this past year more than ever, thinking more critically about what they’re drinking and how it’s making them feel.”
And owners like Marshall are quick to point out that this concept goes way beyond recovery. Yes, of course, one of the big goals is to cut down on alcoholism and help people maintain sobriety. But beyond that, they also want to promote healthier lifestyles and offer selections that can cut down on calories and carbs. Marshall went on to add that people choose not to drink for many reasons. Establishments like Sans Bar aren’t there to cast judgements or ask questions, they just want their customers to have a good time.
There are also lots of new non-alcoholic products to serve from major brands like Anheuser-Busch and Heineken. Niche companies like Ritual Zero Proof offer spirits with zero booze as well, giving places like Sans all of the ingredients they need to perfect their mocktails.
And it is worth noting that sober bars tend to hire and consult people who have gone through recovery. Joshua James is one of their bartenders and has offered a lot of input on how to properly respect people who may be newly sober.
“I want to help destigmatize the words addiction, recovery and sober,” he said. “There’s a thousand reasons to not want to drink as much and establishments like this are giving people that option.”