Who would have thought that an alcohol-free bar could ever become a thing?
Had you told this to someone 20 years back, they would've thought you were crazy. But turns out alcohol is not the key ingredient for having fun after all.
It seems absurd to think that alcohol-free bars are becoming more and more popular, but the idea is not really that new. What is new, however, are the reasons for this sobriety. As early as the 19th century and even the start of the 20th century, the so-called temperance movement (a social movement against alcohol consumption) led to the opening of several alcohol-free bars.
While many in the movement only aimed to reduce their overall alcohol intake, others went one step further and took a pledge to completely abstain from alcohol. Several reasons supported their decision to abstain from alcohol. For some, it was due to religion, while others felt that alcohol was to blame for many societal and personal problems such as domestic abuse, unemployment, etc.
In modern times, the reasons for going booze-free have changed quite a bit from back in the day. Whereas abstinence was once associated with recovering alcoholics, "overly religious" folk, or whatever other reason, health, and wellness, have become the number one reason Millennials say no to alcohol. However, refraining from taking a swig of booze also has other benefits. There's no need to designate a driver or pay for an Uber at the end of a night out, no more waking up the following day having to go work with a terrible hangover, and pregnant women or those suffering from restrictive health conditions can now also enjoy a wide selection of their favorite drinks.
Many booze-free outlets have opened in some well-known areas, such as Spirited Away (New York's very first and only non-alcoholic liquor store), Getaway (an alcohol-free bar) Brooklyn), and Ocean Beach Café, an alcohol-free bar in San Francisco. According to the owner of Ocean Beach Café, the reason for opening an alcohol-free bar was to "destigmatize the words addiction, recovery, and sober."
Not all restaurants and bars have decided to go completely non-alcoholic. However, their offerings of non-alcoholic drinks have dramatically increased. Many restaurants now have a wide selection of non-alcoholic beer, wine, and even gin, where previously there were none. And some have become very creative indeed. For example, a "0% Non-Alcohol Experience", a futuristic bar in Tokyo, you can enjoy a non-alcoholic mix of white wine, sake, and cranberries from a sugar-rimmed glass. And at Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, you can enjoy a great night of live music with a watermelon mockarita made with a tequila alternative!
While alcohol sales still surpass that of non-alcoholic sales, the global consumption of alcohol-free drinks is growing three times faster than that of alcohol. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was the primary cause driving their shift towards non-alcoholic drinks. This trend was especially evident in countries that implemented a complete ban on alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic (South Africa and Greenland). Being without alcohol quickly forced people to become creative, with some reverting to making their own booze. In contrast, others, such as large companies, started experimenting with non-alcoholic versions of their customers' favorite drinks. The result was that non-alcoholic drinks are now a standard feature on menus of many restaurants, something that would've been absent a year ago.
In the end, there will always be various reasons why people abstain from drinking alcohol, whether it be health, religion, or even bad experiences and associations. But whatever the reason, it is definitely a good thing that non-alcoholic drinks have been destigmatized and are now becoming standard. Because it tastes great, and that is all that counts!