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Why a Number of New Bars Don't Actually Serve Booze

They're opening up as more people experiment with sobriety
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2021 7:19 AM CDT

(Newser) – There’s something missing from a new wave of bars opening around the world: Alcohol. Aimed at the growing number of people exploring sobriety, the bars pour adult drinks like craft cocktails without the booze, the AP reports. At 0% Non-Alcohol Experience, a futuristic bar in Tokyo, patrons can sip a mix of non-alcoholic white wine, sake, and cranberries from a sugar-rimmed glass. On a recent evening at Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, customers gathered at outdoor tables, enjoying live music, bottles of alcohol-free IPA, and drinks like the watermelon mockarita, which is made with a tequila alternative. Sober bars aren’t a new phenomenon. They first appeared in the 19th century as part of the temperance movement. But while previous iterations were geared toward non-drinkers or people in recovery, the newer venues welcome the sober as well as the curious.

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“A lot of people just want to drink less,” said Chris Marshall, Sans Bar’s founder. Marshall, who has been sober for 14 years, opened the bar after serving as an addiction counselor. But he estimates 75% of his customers also drink alcohol outside of his bar. “It’s just easier,” said Sondra Prineaux, a regular customer at Sans Bar. “I don’t have to worry about leaving my car here and getting an Uber home. I’ll wake up without a headache.” Abstinence challenges like Dry January—which began in 2013—and a growing interest in health and wellness are behind the trend, said Brandy Rand, chief operating officer for the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Also on the rise: new no-alcohol drinks from companies including Budweiser. “I have the wonderful problem of too many great options,” said Douglas Watters, who opened Spirited Away, a New York shop that sells non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits, in November. (The pandemic accelerated many people's drinking habits.)

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