In a city that never sleeps, it can be uncomfortable for someone who doesn’t drink to find a safe-haven in the bustling nightlife. However, for those in recovery and non-drinkers alike, a new scene has taken over Big Apple. Where once stood endless cocktails, now stands sober bars, “sober curious” consumers, and alcohol-free spaces that have begun gaining traction in each of the gentrified neighborhoods within New York City.
“We Really Serve Music and Conversation”
From dry-bars to buzz-free pop-up parties, late night sober consumers can join a cold-pressed juice crawl or go to “conscious clubbing,” and recently the city’s sober nightlife scene opened up it’s first dry hipster bar.
“I like to joke that alcohol-free drinks might be what’s on the menu, but what we really serve is music and conversation,” said Lorelei Bandrovschi, founder of Listen Bar, a booze-free pop-up bar in Brooklyn claiming to “re-write nightlife beyond alcohol.” While Bandrovschi is currently still raising funds for a permanent location, she plans to have musicians mixing mocktails to a curated playlist of their own music as a social common ground and easy ice-breaker.
“The best bar nights are always about who you meet, and this gives you an easy bridge to connect outside of drinking or not drinking,” she stated.
“Getaway,” another sober-bar with a permanent address, located in Brooklyn has been credited to a “cool, dry place with a hip environment,” where sober Williamsburg resident Ashok “Shoky” Pai, sips on two “Coconauts” (pineapple and coconute milk), and a “Ginger Spice” (ginger, grapefruit juice, tonic and club soda). While Pai has found the alcohol-free scene refreshing, he joins his friend who is also sober at the new bar, Sohang Gandhi. “It’s nice to be around sober people who’ve got their wits about them,” he says.
But where did the mocktail-bars, the booze-free nightlife all begin? While there are numerous people that have found recovery as a sense of necessity from the destructive lifestyles they were living, others are beginning to catch up with the sober movement with another sub-culture trend coined, “sober curious,” – which has started to defies the alcohol scene. And, according to a 2018 report by beverage-market analyzer IWSR, Americans are drinking less these days. In a nutshell, identifying as sober curious means that you know from experience that alcohol doesn’t make you fee great and you don’t drink it often, but you’re not willing to put an all-or-nothing label on yourself.
“People are more invested in their overall wellbeing,” Ruby Warrington, founder of Club Soda in NYC and author of the book Sober Curious, stated in an interview. “As we change our diet, work out regularly and adopt other wellness practices, it becomes harder to reconcile the way alcohol really makes use feel. I think a lot of people are beginning to ask if a few hours of ‘pressing pause’ on stress, anxiety, or loneliness is worth the inevitable payoff the morning after.”
Club Soda – short for Sober or Debating Abstinence – is a space for those that are sober and those debating the “sober conscious” lifestyle to remove the stigma that exists around sobriety and alcohol abuse. As a key wellness trend, the club boasts itself with meet-ups, panels, workshops, and even gather at sober bars for happy hour without the liquor.
“You’ll Never Regret Not Drinking”
Meanwhile, on the Lower East Side, karaoke lounge, Juicebox Heroes is planning to split its bar into sober and non-sober sections later this year, adding to the sober curious and growing nightlife trend.
“You will never regret not drinking,” said Jenna Good, 40, who decided to become sober curious after reading Warrington’s book. Three months into her sobriety, Good stated she has begun to rediscover herself and feels “lighter,” work-focused, and appreciative of small things. “I feel like there’s this person that’s been under the blanket of alcohol for the last 20 or so years,” she said. While Good still states she enjoys drinking wine sometimes, she has tried new workout techniques and has begun to choose restaurants based on their zero-proof beverage menus.
She continued, “now it’s time to see what I can do and who I can be without hangovers.”