Yes Please

Alcohol-Free ‘Dry Bars’ Could (and Should) Be Nightlife’s Next Big Thing

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At PolicyMic, Jeremy Polacek argues that we are on the brink of the age of the dry bar. Instead of spending our evenings wine-soaked and vodka-tonic’d, we will spend them tossing back Shirley Temples, laughing our mellifluous, sober laughs at witty, sober jokes. Already, dry bars are apparently trending across the pond, where Britons — or at least, a small handful of Britons — are trading in beery pubs for beer-free nightclubs. There’s a dry bar in Paris, and at least two alcohol-free nightclubs in Dublin. There’s one in Illinois. In Melbourne, Australia, more than 50 bars and cafés participated in this year’s FebFast, an annual event designed to get locals to cut out alcohol (and sugar and caffeine and digital screens). Mocktails, too, are having a moment. Is the era of our mutual drunkenness past?

Hahahaha of course not. But if it’s true that the dry bar is on the rise, then it’s about time. The benefits are pretty obvious: alcohol is expensive. Soda, even artisanal soda with lime twists in it, is not expensive (or at least, it better not be expensive). Alcohol gives you hangovers. Not-alcohol does not give you hangovers. If you don’t drink, you don’t have to worry about a designated driver. You don’t have to worry about being 21, either. And, most importantly, you’re not excluding anyone: there are a billion reasons people might not want to drink, temporarily or ever, and a dry bar ought to be a pretty perfect solution — at least, if there’s a way to make it catch on.

But is there? In the U.K., apparently, dry bars fit into a larger cultural shift away from the national “heavy drinker” stereotype. That said, the fundamental issue remains: for dry bars to become actually popular-popular, they’ve got to be desirable options in their own right, not pale imitations of the real thing. So far, they aren’t. If they were, Polacek points out, wouldn’t there be one in Brooklyn, where trends come from?

He’s not optimistic. I, however, hold out hope. Would a fancy soda bar not be fun, if it were swanky and well-decorated and also served curly fries? It would be. Also, it would solve so many problems! Sometimes, your companion is a recovering alcoholic. Sometimes, you are a recovering alcoholic. Sometimes, you don’t want to drink for any number of very legitimate reasons. Sometimes, you would like soda and french fries. So please, someone, rise to the challenge here? I don’t know how you make it profitable — I’m no restaurateur — but I will do my best to help. Primarily by drinking your soda and eating your french fries (please have french fries).