Alcohol-Free Bars Are the Latest Trend in Nightlife
Hip spots that don’t serve booze provide sober people a safe space to socialize.
Drinking is a pervasive element of our social lives. From post-work happy hours to weekend nights out to one year-olds’ birthday parties (a seemingly permanent fixture at breweries on weekends), it’s at just about every occasion. And feeling awkward or left out can be challenging for those who want to stay sober. Luckily for them, the biggest emerging trend in bars seem to be places that wouldn’t fit our traditional conception of what a bar is at all.
The idea of “sober nightlife” has gained traction recently, fueled by new fully non-alcoholic cocktail bars and pop-up parties that aim to prove a fun and (literally) memorable night out that won’t end in a hangover. Places like the recently-opened Getaway in Brooklyn’s hip Greenpoint neighborhood and Listen Bar (a roving pop-up in search of a permanent New York home) have all of the trappings of a trendy bar—think Instagrammable decor and artisanal cocktails—just with zero alcohol.
On any given night at Getaway, you can find patrons sipping on drinks like the Ginger Spice, which features ginger, grapefruit juice, tonic and a club soda, outwardly no different from any other cocktail. Only the quieter conversations and lack of spilled drinks would indicate that nobody’s getting wasted.
To the average partier, it probably seems ridiculous to pay $13 for an artisanal cocktail that won’t help you catch a buzz. But a venue like Getaway (plus pop-up sober nights like Listen Bar) proves that sober people don’t have to choose between staying in and sipping seltzer around their boisterous friends all night.
“Bars are a space of relaxation, and we’ve been made to believe that alcohol has to be a part of that,” Lorelei Bandrovschi, who organizes Listen Bar’s rotating events, told the BBC. “It’s really liberating to create space for yourself and your life where a rowdy party vibe doesn’t mean a hangover and blurry memories.”
Based on anecdotal evidence, at least, it seems like more and more people agree. Big beer brands like Heineken are hoping to make a splash with non-alcoholic beer. Trendy cocktail bars are adding non-alcoholic options to their menus, crafted with just as much care as their boozy siblings. Even Dublin, of all places, is about to get its first non-alcoholic bar.
So if you stumble into a bar that seems quiet and calm at 11 on a Friday night and wonder why your cocktail tastes weak, don’t panic: it turns out you’re just at the new cool spot in town.