Enjoyable with out alcohol? Sober bars supply social connections with out peer stress to drink – USA TODAY



Sober bars have gotten a brand new means for individuals recovering and people who merely need to reduce consuming to have a secure house to socialize. USA TODAY

ST. LOUIS — Not removed from the Anheuser-Busch brewery, Joshua Grigaitis fills a cooler with bottles and cans in one of many metropolis’s oldest bars.

It’s Saturday evening. The lights are low. Frank Sinatra’s crooning voice fills the air, together with the aroma of incense. The place has all of the makings of a swank boozy hangout.

Apart from the booze. 

Pop’s Blue Moon bar, a fixture of this beer-loving metropolis since 1908, has joined an rising nationwide pattern: alcohol-free areas providing social connections with out peer stress to drink, hangovers or DUIs. From boozeless bars to substance-free zones at live shows marked by yellow balloons, sober spots are popping up throughout the nation in response to America’s alcohol-soaked tradition, promising a wholesome different for individuals in restoration and people who merely need to drink much less.

“We advanced as social creatures. This can be a good pattern if you need the expertise of companionship and social tradition however don’t need the negatives,” mentioned William Stoops, a College of Kentucky professor who research drug and alcohol habit. “It may possibly assist individuals make higher decisions.”

A federal survey exhibits practically 67 million People binge drink not less than month-to-month, which means ladies down 4 drinks throughout a single event, males 5. Midwestern states have among the highest binge-drinking charges when it comes to each prevalence and depth, placing thousands and thousands of individuals in danger. 

Analysis hyperlinks extreme alcohol use to fatty liver, cirrhosis and cancers of the breast, liver, colon, mouth and throat in addition to coronary heart illness, hypertension, stroke, dementia, nervousness and despair. Almost half of murders contain alcohol, in line with research. Consuming kills about 88,000 individuals yearly, in line with the Institute for Well being Metrics and Analysis on the College of Washington. Such ailments and social ills value the nation an estimated $249 billion a yr. 

Even one drink a day is unhealthy, mentioned Dr. Sarah Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington College in St. Louis. “In the event you’re going to drink, comprehend it’s not good for you.”

For Grigaitis, 41, who additionally goes by Joshua Loyal and is co-owner of Pop’s Blue Moon bar, tying all his fortunes to alcohol was “weighing on my soul” after 20 years within the enterprise. He minimize means again on his personal consuming and commenced holding boozeless Saturday nights in January, providing hop water, nonalcoholic beers and cannabis-derived CBD drinks. 

“I like all the pieces concerning the bar enterprise — besides the alcohol,” he mentioned. “The nonalcoholic beverage motion is a rising group. I’m making a choice to decide on this and I’m pleased with it.”

Chris Marshall, who based Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, in 2015, acquired sober in 2007 and was working as a counselor when a shopper shared how troublesome it was to navigate the social world with out alcohol. The shopper’s relapse and subsequent loss of life was his name to motion.

Sans Bar held a nationwide tour this yr with pop-up occasions in St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and Anchorage, Alaska, and opened a everlasting location in Austin. It attracts a largely feminine crowd all alongside the sobriety spectrum, from these in restoration to the “sober curious.” Folks collect for hours to sip handmade mocktails, speak, dance and hearken to audio system and sober musicians.

“In the event you closed your eyes on a Friday evening, you’d suppose you had been in a daily bar,” he mentioned. “This isn’t about being sober perpetually. That is about being sober for the evening.”

Alcohol as ‘the wallpaper of individuals’s lives’

Alcohol has develop into so ubiquitous that it’s completely acceptable to put on T-shirts saying “Mama wants some wine” or “Daddy wants a beer.”

“It’s normalized,” mentioned Boston College College of Public Well being professor David Jernigan. “It’s just like the wallpaper of individuals’s lives.”

Elsewhere, in Rock Hill, S.C., the high-end, second-hand retailer Garments Mentor served margaritas at its annual clearance sale. Close by, Liberty Tax served the tequila drink when clients went in to complete their taxes final April. A dentist’s workplace within the metropolis that treats adults and youngsters hosts after-hours drop-in occasions that embrace wine. None of these companies responded to requests for remark. 

“Culturally, we all know it’s not OK handy out opioids whenever you’re getting your hair or nails achieved, but alcohol kills extra individuals than opioids and companies will hand it out,” mentioned Alexandra Greenawalt, director of prevention on the nonprofit habit therapy middle Keystone Substance Abuse Providers in Rock Hill.

Washington, D.C., has 2,055 shops that promote alcohol — one for each 315 individuals, which Jernigan mentioned is excessive. Some low-income, primarily African-American neighborhoods have few shops apart from liquor shops and comfort shops promoting beer and wine.

Lothorio Ross, 38, began consuming at about 17 whereas on fishing journeys together with his father. Now homeless in D.C. and dealing with alcoholism, he mentioned, he can get alcohol on credit score from some liquor shops. However he mentioned he’s making an attempt to give up with the assistance of the nonprofit Father McKenna Middle and reminding himself what life was like. 

“Up till I began consuming in my teenagers, I used to be having enjoyable,” mentioned Ross. “So, you may have enjoyable with out consuming, it’s attainable.”

Exterior main cities, leisure typically revolves round alcohol. Social employee Stephanie Logan-Rice mentioned she grew up in Aberdeen, S.D., the place her mom drank herself to loss of life, succumbing to liver cirrhosis three years in the past at 56.  

Logan-Rice was in sixth grade when she realized her mom was consuming wine or vodka out of Tupperware glasses or plastic water bottles.

“I simply thought it was regular,” she mentioned.

When Logan-Rice, 39, acquired to highschool, she drank from beer bongs in automobiles throughout lunch with mates and went to cornfields for keg events. The consuming continued when she moved to Minnesota for school. In her 20s, she drank on daily basis.

She lastly give up 5 years in the past. She now has two youngsters her mom didn’t dwell lengthy sufficient to satisfy.

Since giving up booze, Logan-Rice mentioned, she has seen alcohol in surprising locations — even an assisted residing facility that provided bottles of wine as door prizes when she attended an early-afternoon presentation about hospice care.

“I get it if I am going right into a restaurant,” she mentioned. “However not an assisted residing place.”

Declining a drink: Recovering alcoholics, the ‘sober curious’ and the health-conscious

America’s pervasive alcohol tradition has pushed individuals to seek out artistic methods to socialize soberly.

In South Carolina, the Keystone therapy middle hosts occasions for native faculty college students at Winthrop College that includes non-alcoholic drinks. 

In Washington, D.C., members of a rising sober LGBTQ group manage dry studying teams and rafting journeys and alcohol-free nights out as an alternative of hitting homosexual bars. Tom Hill, a vice chairman on the Nationwide Council for Behavioral Well being, who’s homosexual and in restoration, mentioned these actions create a “sense of socialization and camaraderie to switch what they’d.”

Risks of alcohol:

Nationally, sober raves resembling Daybreaker morning dance events have caught on, fueled solely by dancing.

Nonetheless, Devra Gordon, a behavioral well being therapist with Inova Complete Dependancy Remedy Providers in Fairfax County, Va., mentioned she advises people who find themselves grappling with substance abuse to attend live shows and raves with simply with their sober mates – and they need to attend restoration conferences earlier than and after. The conferences assist keep away from falling right into a “‘euphoric recall” the place they romanticize previous substance use, she mentioned.

“Having enjoyable and consuming alcohol is an phantasm,” mentioned Cortez McDaniel, who’s recovering from alcohol and drug abuse problems and heads companies at Father McKenna Middle. “Now we have to cease believing the lie, after which we now have to begin practising one thing completely different.” 

At Pop’s Blue Moon, Jaclynn Rowell, who reads tarot playing cards for purchasers, mentioned the well being advantages of no-booze nights are a giant draw. And plenty of are completely satisfied to keep away from awkward questions on faith, being pregnant and sobriety that may come up at common bars when somebody asks why they’re not consuming.

Stephanie Keil, 39, spent two hours with mates there on a latest Saturday evening and mentioned she’d like to see extra boozeless bars.

Although she drinks every now and then, locations like these assist her responsibly navigate nightlife within the metropolis the place Budweiser was born. 


When bars and liquor shops abound, it may be tough to remain sober. Simply ask Lothorio Ross. City Well being Media Challenge, City Well being Media Challenge

O’Donnell reported from Washington, D.C. Ungar reported from St. Louis.

Contributing: USA TODAY’s Claire Thornton, US in Washington, D.C. 

In the event you or somebody near you is battling points talked about on this story and also you wish to join with others on-line, be part of USA TODAY’s “I Survived It” Fb help group. For assist with a consuming downside, test Alcoholics Nameless, Good Restoration or the Substance Abuse and Psychological Well being Providers Administration’s helpline at 800-662-HELP.   

Kaiser Well being Information (KHN) is a nonprofit information service masking well being points. It’s an editorially impartial program of the Kaiser Household Basis that isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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