Alcohol-Free Bar in Texas Fuels the Growing ‘Sober-Curious’ Movement

Music, talks, and the sounds of glasses clinking are part of the magic that bars offer. One bar in Austin, Texas, The Sans Bar, offers this full-package experience, but there’s one big difference from other bars: the glasses don’t contain alcoholic drinks. 

The owner of the bar, Chriss Marshall, opened it in 2017 as a place for socializing and having fun, without any alcohol being involved. Marshall explains this idea was inspired by his personal struggles with addiction that began in his teen early years, that is, at the age of 16.

Today, after five years, the bar is a symbol of the growing movement known as the sober curious, a phrase that author Ruby Warrington coined in 2016. He is also a writer of the two best-sellers about this concept.

Warrington explains that his goal was to create a term that doesn’t judge and that’s free enough to give him a chance to explore some of the questions, without it having to do anything about his drinking.

Removing Alcohol Does Not Mean We Are Losing Out

Warrington also emphasizes that people often think that if alcohol is taken out of the picture, we’re losing out and that we’re not invited. Many people also believe that fun is impossible without alcohol. 

However, framing it as ‘could my life be better without alcohol’ is opening doors to different opportunities. Marshall had to go to rehab at the age of 23 and he explains that he gave up alcohol and focused on becoming a therapist for addictions. 

His addiction to alcohol reached the point of his friends shunning him out and when he got to rehab, he became aware that he had a new type of support and that he doesn’t have to be lonely forever.

The bar today is a result of the real statement that he heard back then-you don’t have to be alone, ever again.

How Did the Story of the Bar Start?

With $200 and several folding tables, Marshall rented one lot in the back of one hair salon and started the foundation of the today-popular no-alcohol bar. After the opening, Marshall explains that people began showing up because they understood the vision he was trying to create. 

People knew it wasn’t about the drink; though they came for the drinks, they stayed for the community. However, the pandemic caused some problems in the bar. Since people couldn’t meet up in person, Marshall had to create virtual happy hours. 

During these virtual meetups, he would give non-alcohol mixology classes and give people the chance to socialize during the isolation. In the pandemic, people got time to reflect on their choices, including their relationship with alcohol, Marshall explained.

For the first time in their lives, some individuals looked at themselves like they never did before.

Alcohol Consumption Rose During the Pandemic

According to a study from the American Medical Association journal from 2021, September, the frequency of alcohol intake rose 14 percent during the pandemic for women, and binge drinking also elevated by 41 percent!

34 percent of participants in another study published in the Environmental Research and Public Health reported that they began binge drinking because of the pandemic. 

And, out of the 832 participants, 60 percent reported a rise in their drinking habits whereas only 13 percent of them experienced a reduction.

The major reasons listed were boredom, stress, and alcohol availability. 

Despite the spike in alcohol use among adults, Warrington claims more are actually reconsidering their drinking habits. 

Non-alcoholic beverages are therefore increasingly popular and even celebrities like Blake Lively and Katy Perry invest in the growing business and make their own alcohol-free drinks.