The rise of alcohol-free bars

With city living on the rise, people are looking for places to escape their apartment and see friends without the pressure of alcohol.

Temperance bars aren’t new and in fact Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Manchester was founded in 1890 and is still going strong today.

This new wave of bars is not rooted in the temperance movement of total abstinence. The idea is still to provide a cool, fun environment that feels like a bar but without the risk of a hangover the next day.

The scene is taking off in New York, London and Dublin. Instagram-friendly Getaway in Brooklyn is a beautifully stylish bar, offering a cocktail menu and a friendly atmosphere. The Virgin Mary in Dublin pours cooled coffee from a stout tap to create the illusion of Guinness.

Sam Thonis, who co-owns the Getaway, told the BBC that he got the idea three years ago when he and his brother, who doesn’t drink, were trying to find a place to go out together at night: “There weren’t many nightlife options in New York that didn’t revolve around alcohol or weren’t trying to push that on you in some way,” Thonis says. “The more I talked to people, some of whom are sober and some of whom aren’t, the more I felt that people wanted that kind of space.”

It was important to the owners at Getaway that the space was not thought of as a place of abstinence.

“Nothing about our space says you should be sober, or you shouldn’t go around the corner to another bar and do a tequila shot after hanging out here,” Thonis said. “It’s not exclusively for the non-drinker.”

Whilst the alcohol-free bar is currently more of a trend than a staple, it is one that could be here to stay. There are plenty of articles out there to suggest that millennials are drinking less because of the fear of losing control in a social media  world, so these new style temperance bars are offering a solution to a very new problem.

In 2016 the Office of National Statistics asked adults over the age of 16 if they had drunk alcohol the week before. 56.7% said they had, the lowest recorded percentage since they started asking the question in 2005.

The Virgin Mary in Dublin is the country’s first permanent alcohol-free bar. It has a pub feel, selling alcohol-free beer, wine and cocktails.

Owner Vaughan Yates spoke to The Guardian: “When I mention this concept to friends, the first thing they do is laugh and ask why I’d do this in one of the bar capitals of Europe, from birth to death, baptism to funeral, Ireland has a drinking culture”.

According to the World Health Organisation Irish drinking habits are changing. Alcohol consumption has fallen by about a quarter between 2005 and 2016, and according to the revenue commission the figure dipped again in 2017.

Maybe alcohol-free bars will be the new drinking trend for the foreseeable future.

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