Sitting back and enjoying a few drinks at the local pub is a tradition that’s shared the world over. Whether it’s a casual beer after work or a late night out with friends with bottomless drinks, alcohol and bars are an integral part of countless cultures, but some people are questioning just how vital alcohol is to bars. All over the world, alcohol-free bars are starting to pop-up, and it seems to be catching on. While it might seem odd going to a bar that doesn’t even have a liquor license, these establishments seem to be scratching a cultural need.
The trend can be traced back to 2013 in Hackney where a pop-up bar named Redemption first opened its doors. It was an instant success; so much so that they’ve expanded over the years and continue to offer residents in London an alternative night out. Their approach isn’t as simple as mimicking a regular bar minus the alcohol. Instead, they focus on the areas where most bars fall short; they make sure that the atmosphere, the food, and the drink selection are top-notch, and their drinks aren’t the regular bar fare. Most drinks, at least those with alcohol, use the spirit as the base and build the flavors around the alcohol. At Redemption, they’re not limited by that approach. Using bright, bold flavors like wasabi, ginger, and beets, they design truly unique drinks that are in a league of their own. Not only are their offerings delicious; they don’t come with a hangover the next day.
Redemption isn’t the only place offering the bar experience sans the alcohol. All over the world, there are forays into this new type of bar experience. In Crystal Lake Illinois, The Other Side is a sober bar that is a great venue for live music. The Other Side tries to capture the spirit, social aspect, and fun of a nightclub without serving alcohol. While Redemption attempts to be an alternative to booze-filled bars, The Other Side promotes itself as a safe haven for recovering alcoholics and tries to provide a space for recovery. Despite their different aims and locations, both bars are doing great and inspiring the trend in other cities.
Not all alcohol-free bars are successful, though. In New Zealand, a country known for their delicious wines, the Tap Bar opened up to a lackluster response and quickly had to shut its doors. It seems the Kiwis are less interested in a dry bar than their British and American counterparts. However, the owner marketed it as a late night, after-party venue that didn’t serve any alcohol, so maybe the lackluster response was a marketing failure as opposed to a lack of interest.
Bars have always been important venues for people to socialize, cutback, and get out of the house. Alcohol has always been a huge part of the human social experience, but it’s not for everyone, and increasingly, people all over the world are turning their backs on liquor. It’s interesting to see how businesses are navigating the changing markets and trying to preserve tradition while making some changes.