More than 80% of the population drinks. American culture, social life, and outings often revolve heavily around alcohol, and anyone who doesn’t drink is simply left out. But, that is quickly changing. New initiatives like sober bars, sober-only parties, and alcohol-free venues are becoming more common across the United States, largely as initiatives started by people in recovery, and surprisingly, taken up by people who have never had problems with alcohol.
Today, the percentage of people who don’t drink is on the rise. This links heavily to increasing public awareness of the dangers of binge drinking, increasing availability of rehabilitation and recovery backed by insurance and behavioral science, and increasing public support for people in recovery, thanks to a greater understanding of what addiction is and how it works. While there’s still much to do in terms of making social activities and fun available and accessible to individuals who don’t want to be around alcohol, sober bars are a good start.
If you’re curious, are in recovery yourself, or have a friend or loved one who would like to go out without being around alcohol, a sober bar might be an excellent choice for you.
What Are Sober Bars
Sober bars are exactly what you might think reading the name, bars that don’t serve alcohol. Instead, many of them serve drinks ranging from virgin cocktails and alcohol-free beer to tea, coffee, and other beverages. Depending on the bar, the atmosphere can range from an exact copy of the “real” thing to a more laid-back environment complete with books, couches, and zones to play games or talk. These bars, much more reminiscent of 1900s turn-of-the-century clubs than today’s bars, offer spaces to engage, meet people, and socialize, without the presence of alcohol.
Most attempt to mimic the spirit and creativity of real bars, serving “mocktails” in an increasing variety of tastes, styles, and options. Sober individuals can enjoy the craft of mixed drinks and bar-science, engage with others, and feel like going out is more than simply tagging along with drinking friends for a soda and to be a ride.
And, while sober bars sounds like an oxymoron, they’re increasingly appearing across the United States, with popup alcohol-free bars typically testing the waters before permanent establishments are built. Many are also built for varying reasons, ranging from offering recovering alcoholics a safe space to simply offering alcohol-free outings to the general public.
While the idea of a sober bar seems like an oxymoron to many, they also aren’t completely new. Prohibition in the United States spanned 13 years between 1920 and 1933. It completely banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Bars shut down. But a new trend arose. Sometimes called social clubs or temperance bars, and sometimes simply hosted at local barber shops, diners, and milk shops, venues began catering to individuals who wanted to socialize without alcohol. These venues typically served root beer, dandelion, milkshakes, or soda (pop), most of which were difficult to get at the time. Prohibition ended and many of them faded into anonymity or shut doors, but the trend is once again on the rise.
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Support for Recovering Addicts
Recovery bars and sober bars typically cater to anyone who walks in the door but maintain strict “no-alcohol” policies. Here, even beverages with 0.5% or less alcohol (which is sold as alcohol free in the U.S.) might be banned to allow people in recovery to go out and enjoy themselves without the smell of alcohol. Most recovery bars offer a selection of mocktails and completely alcohol-free beverages in a traditional “bar-like” environment.
Sober bars might be linked to local recovery groups like SMART or AA, might offer pamphlets and information on addiction recovery, and might be real sources of information. More likely, they’re functioning to offer a way to have fun, alcohol free. Most importantly, they’re offering real drinks, creativity, and fun, rather than token efforts like a free soda for the designated driver. Making sober people feel included because they are what the venue is about makes those venues more accessible and more fun, because no one has to go there and be the only person who isn’t drunk.
The “Sober Curious” Trend
“Sober Curious” is the term for a new trend encapsulating millions of people who have decided to either drink less or not to drink at all. Studies show that drinking is down from 5 years ago (across all ages), people are drinking later in life and less of it, and non-alcoholic beverages are increasingly available in grocery stores and in social settings. If you were to go on Instagram, you could find further proof of this trend by hitting tags like #sober, #soberlife and #soberissexy, which together, contain more than 5 million posts. People increasingly see alcohol as negative, understand that you can’t connect with others while drunk, and realize they have more fun when sober.
These trends often align with people trying to get or stay healthy, to improve their lives, and reduce the cost of going out, and often have little to do with a past history of alcohol abuse or addiction. While disconnected, the trend creates a more mainstream current of alcohol-free demand, meaning that businesses, organizations, and even large-scale alcohol suppliers are more likely to cater to that demand with alcohol-free events, venues, and drinks.
Finding a Sober Bar
Sober bars are a relatively new trend, but most big cities already have at least one. That does mean you might have to travel if you don’t live in a big city, but chances are, there is something relatively close. Here, you can ask around at your local sobriety group or self-help group, use Google search (my location + sober bar), or check guides like Temper and Bar TV to see if you find anything in your area.
Sober bars are a growing trend, but not yet available everywhere. If they’re not, there are likely still plenty of places to go and things to do that don’t involve alcohol. While most of them won’t have the atmosphere of going to a bar after work to relax and get a few drinks with friends or a colleague, there are always ways to socialize and have fun that don’t include alcohol.
If you have any questions concerning drug and alcohol addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact us at Truvida Recovery. Call 877-228-1102 to speak in confidence with an experienced treatment advisor now.