Dry Bars Pop Up In The UK. Could The Alcohol-Free Night Life Trend Catch On In The States?

Dry bars are popping up all over the UK. These trendy new establishments are offering adult patrons a nightlife full of socializing without the alcohol. They are everything you’d expect from a night club, pub or tavern, except that they are completely barren of booze. Plenty of socialites are heading out to these established dry bars, but would such a thing be embraced across the pond in the states?

Dan Hillard, a US resident questioned about the dry bar concept, said he would head out to a dry bar if one came to town, “Going to a coffee house or bar is basically just phoning it in sometimes, because there’s nothing else to do.”

Sobar is a dry bar located in Nottingham. Sobar manager, Alex Gilmore, told Public Radio International, “Someone in recovery or someone who doesn’t want to drink still wants to put on their glad rags on and have a good night out.” Most dry bar patrons aren’t in recovery though. Sobar’s representatives say that 85 percent of its patrons have no history of alcohol problems. Most of their of patrons are women looking for a safer evening out. Catherine Salway, the owner of one of London’s premier dry bars said she noticed a trend in young adults cutting back their drinking. She said most of her patrons at Redemption are simply choosing healthier lifestyles.

People I questioned in the US about dry bars wondered why anyone needs a dry bar when coffee shops and juice bars exist. Brandon Snider represented many Americans who are not convinced of a need for dry bars. Snider said of US alcohol free bars, “Every group of people I know has one or two in the group who don’t drink and everyone respects that. I feel like if there was room in the market for alcohol free clubs they would already exist.”

More young adults in the UK are drinking less. The Office for National Statistics reported that alcohol consumption had dropped in the 25-44 age bracket. Nine years ago, 74 percent of men and 62 percent of women said they had consumed alcohol the previous week. Two years ago, those numbers fell to 63 percent and 50 percent respectively. Either people are merely drinking less, or the newer generation of young adults are choosing to spend their time differently from the generations before them. Salway told The Guardian, “There are coffee shops and juice bars but there wasn’t anywhere that felt like you could have a proper night out.”

Redemption’s owner wonders if the new generation just wants to make choices that are different from what their elders have done. The UK has always had a reputation for enjoying spirits and a dry bar is certainly different. Salway told Sky News, “If you’re 30 now, you’ve grown up in an environment where everyone is getting lashed all the time… and really, as young people want to do, they are questioning the status quo which is to say why is socialising constantly linked with being drunk all the time?”

Last year, CBS reported that at least one dry bar had set its sights on Chicago patrons. The Other Side‘s design was to be a place that’s exactly like a bar, without the alcohol. Google archives traces the term “dry bar” back to 1980. The Southeast Missourian reported over three decades ago about Woody Woodhull’s brand new dry bar in Waukegan, Illinois.

Do you think dry bars would make as big of a splash in American cities and towns?

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