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Cheers to a New Sober Social Scene

Issue 28

A New Trend in Inclusivity

There is a growing movement in the availability of alcohol-free venues where those who are sober or prefer not to be around alcohol, can enjoy an atmosphere of lively fun and fulfillment.

In recent times, the development of changing views and habits has caused a remarkable shift in the consumption of alcohol and lifestyles that centered on alcohol. A movement has erupted as many started to take inventory of their drinking habits and how alcohol played a role in their lives.

An excerpt on the American Cancer Society’s blog stated in part, “In the past decade, movements like Dry January and Sober October have gained traction. Dry January participation peaked in 2022 when many people decided to cut back following a rising trend of alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some motivations for observing Dry January included curbing addictive behavior, seeking better sleep, cutting calories and health concerns.

The historic attitude that you can’t have fun unless you are drinking has been challenged in the past few years. Surprisingly, many are discovering they can still enjoy a football game, attend a concert or even go to a bar.

There are several stadiums across the country offering alcohol-free sections for those who would prefer not to be surrounded by those drinking. They can be more relaxed and focused on the game, without the worry of a disturbance involving spirits of the liquid kind in the neighboring seat.

These designated areas are known as “section yellow” where volunteers at a booth hand out stickers that say, “one game at a time,” inspired by the motto of twelve-step groups.

Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home base for the New England Patriots, has provided two alcoholfree sections since 2002. According to the chief financial officer of Kraft Sports and Entertainment, Jim Nolan, it has been very successful.

“It’s worked out very well,” he said. “People have the opportunity to sit at a game and not have drinking immediately around them.”

Six hundred seats are available and the ticket holders are usually seasoned ticket holders.

Other stadiums also offer alcohol-free sections, including the home base for the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, to name a few.

Bars and other establishments across the country have also created sober venues where this tradition can continue, only without the mind-altering spirits. People have an opportunity to feel a sense of community, acceptance and a healthier kind of fellowship.

Abby Ehmann established Hekate Café and Elixer Lounge in New York City’s East Village in May of 2022.

“I wanted to offer a community space, an art gallery, tea shop, gift shop and elixir bar,” said Abby. “I thought maybe if the elixir part doesn’t work, I could replicate regular alcoholic drinks.” And then the press and sober communities got wind of Abby’s establishment.

“They were weeping with appreciation and grateful to taste the taste again without the mind-altering effect,” Abby recalled. “I concoct things not in a normal bar and everyone is very receptive.”

Customers feel safe knowing they won’t be served alcohol by accident, which is a selling point for sober people. They find it reassuring.

“I have hundreds of products and make my own homemade simple syrups and sophisticated concoctions,” she revealed.

Folks are embracing this new concept of alcohol-free scenarios and enjoy delectable concoctions without compromising sobriety.

All ages come in,” said Abby. “Sixty-five year olds like witchy tea and people love live music.”

“We have book clubs, parties and sober open-mic,” Abby continued. “This for me is personally gratifying and it has been a labor of love.”

A survey done by the company Bare Zero Proof, which produces alcohol-free liquid options, reported that “two thirds of American adults consciously intended to drink less, primarily fueled by health and budget concerns.”

The article went on to say, “The mindset held by 64% and young consumers (ages 21-30) and 50% of adults who drink alcohol, will continue into 2023.”

That translates to 100 million people. Further results from the survey indicated drinking less alcohol in 2023 was intentional for nearly two-thirds of adults and half said they planned to drink less in 2023.

The dry culture has not only planted a seed, but is blooming and thriving in a receptive environment. It is an awakening, not only for those seeking a sober life or less alcohol, but for the general public and those in the hospitality business.

For example, at rock concerts where there can be a significant amount of drinking going. People who are in recovery could feel that being around alcohol or substances threatens their highly valued sobriety and decide to not go at all.

Groups, whose members are a sober fan base for a particular band, offer a safety net and support at concerts. They are the band’s own sober community, but aren’t affiliated with the band.

Left to right: Andy Salkin, Lindsey Harper, Mike Nardone, Cameron Breen, Scotty McKenzie. Set break meeting attendees at Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe, PA.

These group members are volunteers who provide a table at the concert, with identifying yellow balloons and a banner.

Meetings are held during set break for anyone who is struggling. The only requirement to attend a meeting is the desire to be substance free at shows. The group is not affiliated  with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or any other twelve-step group.

“We do a meet and greet and people can hang out at the table,” said Scott McKenzie of the Digital Buddhas, sober fan base of the Disco Biscuits. “It’s a chance to meet others in recovery and I have found some of my best friends through Digital Buddhas.”

People can wear a yellow sticker that says “one show at a time”, inspired by the 12-step group’s motto, “one day at a time.” Others will know those who are wearing these stickers are in recovery and can safely approach them.

The first Digital Buddhas table was set up in 2002 and created by the late Steve Shelton. It is refreshing and comforting to know that there are places out there for those in recovery, non-drinkers, sober curious or those who have cut back on alcohol. It is these venues where someone can find support, be in a sober space, which can cultivate a more wholesome social experience.

It is everyone’s personal choice and discretion as to where they would feel comfortable socializing or attending an event. There certainly is a whole new world of exciting options to explore.

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