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Without the booze, a new generation of bars is creating a stir.



Without the booze, a new generation of bars is creating a stir.
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Without the booze, a new generation of bars is creating a stir.

Without the booze, a new generation of bars is creating a stir.


A new wave of bars is springing up all over the world, but one thing is missing: alcohol.

The bars serve adult drinks like craft cocktails without the alcohol, targeted at the increasing number of people who are experimenting with sobriety. Patrons will drink a blend of non-alcoholic white wine, sake, and cranberries from a sugar-rimmed glass at 0 percent Non-Alcohol Experience, a futuristic bar in Tokyo. Customers gathered at outdoor tables at Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, on a recent evening to enjoy live music, bottles of alcohol-free IPA, and drinks like the watermelon mockarita, which is made with a tequila substitute.

Sober bars aren’t a recent trend. They first emerged as part of the temperance movement in the nineteenth century. However, unlike previous versions, which catered to non-drinkers or people in rehab, the newer venues are available to both the sober and the curious.

Sans Bar’s creator, Chris Marshall, said, “A lot of people just want to drink less.”

Marshall opened the bar after 14 years of sobriety and working as an alcohol counselor. However, he reports that 75% of his customers consume alcohol outside of his bar.

Sondra Prineaux, a regular at Sans Bar, said, “It’s just simpler.” “I’m not concerned about leaving my car here and taking an Uber ride. I won’t have a headache when I wake up.”

Abstinence problems such as Dry January, which started in 2013, and a rising interest in health and wellness are driving the trend, according to Brandy Rand, chief operating officer of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis for the Americas.

According to IWSR, alcohol consumption dropped 5% in ten key markets last year, including the United States, Germany, Japan, and Brazil. During the same time span, consumption of low- and no-alcohol beverages increased by 1%.

Low- and no-alcohol beverages continue to outsell alcohol. In 2020, 9.7 billion 9-liter cases of alcohol were consumed in those major markets, compared to 292 million 9-liter cases of low- and no-alcohol drinks. However, Rand points out that low- and no-alcohol beer, wine, and spirits consumption is increasing two to three times faster than overall alcohol consumption.

Sales are also boosted by an influx of new goods. There are drinks from small businesses like Chicago’s Ritual Zero Proof, which opened in 2019 and produces alcohol-free bourbon, gin, and tequila, as well as larger corporations like Anheuser-Busch, which launched alcohol-free Budweiser Zero last year.

Douglas Watters, who opened Spirited Away, a New York shop that sells non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits, in November, said, “I have the wonderful issue of too many great choices.”

Watters admitted that the pandemic lockdown made him reconsider his normal routine of ending each day with a cocktail. He began experimenting with non-alcoholic drinks and planned to open his own store by August. He claims that many of his clients are sober, but that some are pregnant or have health problems. Some are preparing for marathons, while others simply want to reduce their alcohol consumption.

“This year, more than ever, a lot of people are thinking more deeply about what they’re drinking and how it makes them feel,” he said.

During the pandemic, Joshua James, a seasoned bartender, had a similar realization. He newly opened Ocean Beach Cafe, an alcohol-free bar in San Francisco, after a stay at Friendship House, a substance abuse recovery center.

He said, “I wanted to de-stigmatize the terms addiction, rehabilitation, and sobriety.” “There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t drink as much.”

According to James, the coronavirus “warped” the change in many people’s drinking habits. However, it has harmed the fledgling non-alcoholic bar scene.

Due to legislation, some bars, such as The Virgin Mary Bar in Dublin and Zeroliq in Berlin, have temporarily closed their doors. To survive the pandemic, Getaway, a non-alcoholic bar in New York, converted to a coffee shop. Sam Thonis, the bar’s owner, has added outdoor seating and expects to reopen it this spring.

For the time being, Billy Wynne, co-owner of Awake in Denver, is still selling coffee and non-alcoholic spirits from a carryout window. However, he expects to open a non-alcoholic bar next month.

Drink costs, according to Wynne, would be equivalent to those at a normal bar. He claims that alcohol is inexpensive, and that the method of removing it from certain drinks makes them more costly.

Place that offers alcoholic drinks Seedlip Spice 94, a non-alcoholic spirit, costs $33 per 700 ml bottle on Drizly. That’s slightly more than the $30 for a 750 ml bottle of Aviation Gin. Customers, on the other hand, Wynne believes, are willing to pay for the skill that goes into making a cocktail or a flavorful wine, whether or not it contains alcohol.

He claims that the bulk of his clients are women in their 30s or 40s. Some people tell him they’ve been waiting for a bar like his to open their entire lives.

He explained, “This sort of thing isn’t a fad.” “People should not become aware of the harmful effects of alcohol on their lives and then change their minds.”

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