People are sick of drinking. Investors are betting on the ‘sober curious’
I ordered a carrot-and-ginger shrub and hoped it would be palatable. I was pleasantly surprised, drank the whole thing and, voila, was not even tipsy. Even more exciting: my bill. It was a mere $15 for two drinks and a bread bowl — to soak up the non-alcoholic beverages, of course.
Getaway is a sober bar, a new kind of dry nightlife option that is cropping up in New York City. The idea is to provide outlets for people who want to socialize in a bar-like location, but without having to drink alcohol.
They are part of larger trend. People are paying greater attention to their mental health and wellness, and many Americans are specifically looking to reduce their alcohol intake. People of all ages are drinking less beer, while millennials are drinking less overall. And Silicon Valley is taking note, with tech companies reevaluating their alcohol policies and investors looking to capitalize on people who prefer not to drink.
“It’s such a part of the culture, especially here in San Francisco that I would go out for dinner and have two to three drinks everyday,” Silicon Valley entrepreneur Justin Kan, the CEO of law-tech startup Atrium, told CNN Business. He said he has seen a shift recently within his tech circle. “I was at a dinner with a lot of tech people last night and probably half the people weren’t drinking.”
Their sales of alcoholic beverages have been declining, big alcohol companies, ranging from Heineken to AB InBev (the owner of popular beer brands such as Budweiser), see an opportunity: They’re investing in non-, or low-alcohol drinks. So too, startup investors and entrepreneurs are hoping to cater to the “sober curious”.
The emergence of sober bars is one of the signals that investor Anu Duggal points to when talking about the trend of not drinking. Duggal, who is based in New York City, said that like Kan, she is noticing “a number of people who are choosing not to drink.”
NYC’s sober bar scene is a ‘hip’ oasis for booze-free fun
Sober nightlife is taking off in New York City, from posh mocktail bars to buzz-free pop-up parties. The objective: to deliver a fun night out without alcohol — which Americans are drinking less of these days, according to a 2018 report by beverage-market analyzer IWSR.
Liquor is “a toxin,” not a social lubricant, Ashok “Shoky” Pai, a sober Williamsburg resident, tells The Post. On a recent Saturday night, the 40-something real estate agent settled in at Getaway, Greenpoint’s new mocktail bar. Pai, who used to be a club promoter, polished off two Coconauts (pineapple and coconut milk; $13) and a Ginger Spice (ginger, grapefruit juice, tonic and club soda; also $13). He found the booze-free scene refreshing: “It’s nice to be around sober people who’ve got their wits about them,” he says.
Fellow Getaway patron Wayne Hosang agrees. Although the sober bar was filled with millennial patrons, “it has a grown-up feeling to it,” says the Williamsburg-based asset manager, who’s in his early 50s. He’d had a glass of wine at a dinner party before coming to Getaway with sober friends. Even without liquid courage, he says, “people are still being very social.”
“Right now we live in a culture that claims drinking as a default,” says Bandrovschi, who’s 32 and an occasional drinker. Her company takes over otherwise-boozy bars to sling mocktails such as the Ghost Me Maybe (grapefruit, rosemary and tonic; $11). She thinks the rising interest in wellness is driving the trend of alcohol-free fun — although drinkers are free to join her events, too.
It’s a welcome change for non-drinkers like Pai. When he first got sober, he says, he would order water and lime in a martini glass, just to have something in his hand. But now that booze is less en vogue, he doesn’t feel like he needs to bother anymore. “Sobriety is only going to get more cool,” he says.
How Sober Bars are Creating a New Buzz Around Town
Patrons of sober bars are generally looking for somewhere to hang out without the pressure to drink or experiment with drugs. It’s also a great way to meet and connect with sober peers around your local community. You can dance, play games and have a great time with those around you without the pressure to get drunk. Sober bars offer a unique alternative for a friend’s night out, celebration or other party.
Booze-Free Drinks Soar In Popularity
Image courtesy Alamy.com