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A bar without booze? A look at the growing sober curious trend

Posted at 9:45 PM, Jun 24, 2019

Dry July? We are not talking about the weather, but a social movement to be sober.

Alcohol-free bars are growing in popularity in cities from New York to Austin to Los Angeles.

But how about it coming to the Central Coast.

 “I just don’t see that being the craze just yet. We are seeing this in the bigger cities. The 30 something crowd is over the party scene,” said Billy Hales, a long-time bar and restaurant owner on the Central Coast.

He said alcohol or not, his bartenders still get creative with ingredients.

They have a minty-non alcoholic drink that is an alternative to a mojito.

“Just like a normal cocktail, garnish it beautifully. With a nice thing of mint,” said Chad Tolley, who is the bar manager at Mason Bar.

Like Mason Bar, many Central Coast bars and restaurants are mixing mocktails.

“We have some traditional Peruvian drinks. For people at lunchtime who are business diners who are watching calories or for ethical reasons of drinking at lunch and going back to work, they choose non-alcoholic,” said Troy Phounsavath, Mistura server.

Sober curious or not, Hales remains cautiously optimistic about the no booze bar trend.

 “I don’t know if it would work for me to do a concept around it. I am certainly open to seeing how it grows,” said Hales.

But, the concept is growing in cities like Austin, Texas.

“What I love about this concept is that there are people here in Austin and around the country who are seeking something different,” said Chris Marshall, owner of Sans Bar in Austin, Texas.

Two years ago Marshall opened Sans Bar, which is appropriately named as it’s a bar sans alcohol.

“Time and time again I have seen people come into this space, not sure what to expect and then they stay all night. They leave with new friends and then they come back next week. For me, this is what it all about where people can connect in a sober safe atmosphere,” he said.

“If that’s the way people tastes are going, then we will support it,” said Hales.

Austin based Sans Bar is doing a pop-up boozeless bar in Los Angeles on September 28.

Alcohol-free bars aren’t a new concept.

In the late 19th century, a number of alcohol-free bars known as temperance bars were established in the United Kingdom as part of the temperance movement — which advocated abstinence from alcohol.

For those who don’t want a dry July, June is cocktail month in San Luis Obispo County, so area bars and restaurants are pouring cocktails featuring locally made spirits.

For a list of participating bars, click here.