Young Brits’ booze-free lifestyles inspiring a new type of bar


Young Brits’ booze-free lifestyles inspiring a new type of bar

Young Brits’ booze-free lifestyles inspiring a new type of bar

You used to have to excuse your sobriety if on a night out with friends. No more. The norms around alcohol drinking have changed among the younger generations, with many refusing to even give it a sniff.

Research released at the back end of last year by the University College London found that the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who don’t drink alcohol has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% a decade on.

A lot of those who don’t drink alcohol have never even touched a drop.

Operating in the hospitality industry, this rejection of alcohol by millennials probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Pubs are being forced to close their doors at an alarming rate, with 10,500 boozers in the UK (and counting) calling last orders for the final time since 2000.

And while there are more factors for this decline in pubs than millennials’ drinking habits, few would deny that this is playing a significant part in this shift in British culture.

So, what do you do as an industry to combat the loss in alcohol sales?

You build booze-free bars, of course.

Sober bars acting as a ‘second living room’

Booze-free bars are popping up just about everywhere, not just in Shoreditch and the surrounding area. Although it’s fair to say that you couldn’t just build a sober bar anywhere…

As the BBC puts it, a pub without alcohol is something of an oxymoron. But in cities like New York and London, where apartment dwellers with little space use bars as a ‘second living room’, the concept of an alcohol-free hangout holds some serious appeal. Cities like Dublin are also following suit, with the aptly-named ‘The Virgin Mary’ opening this month. If Ireland, known for its drinking culture, can make a success of it, then surely anywhere can?

For the sceptics among you, who might question how booze-free bars are any different from a café or coffee house, these venues are built specifically for night time – they only open in the evenings, the lights are low and there’s not a single person working on their MacBook. They cater to non-drinkers who still want to go out and socialise but not be surrounded by people drinking heavily.

Lorelei Bandrovschi, 32, organises alcohol-free pop-up events. She explained exactly why the concept works so well for so many people: “Bars are a space of relaxation, and we’ve been made to believe that alcohol has to be a part of that,” she told the BBC. “It’s really liberating to create space for yourself and your life where a rowdy party vibe doesn’t mean a hangover and blurry memories.”

Dry January

The booze-free bar concept also plays nicely into campaigns such as Dry January, which urges people to abstain from alcohol for a month.

While you couldn’t make a business case for an alcohol-free bar on the basis of a month, there’s a discussion to be had whether traditional pubs and bars would benefit from joining in with such campaigns. That’s right, becoming booze-free for a month. And you’ve got six months to prepare.

A YouGov poll suggested as many as 4.2 million people in the UK took part in Dry January at the start of 2019. So, wherever you’re based in the country, you can say with some assurance that a significant number of people in the area will either be booze-free completely or have spells of not drinking alcohol.

If you’re struggling to do as much trade as you’d like, is it worth going booze-free for a trial period (or longer)? Just some food for thought...

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