Are Dry Bars the New Thing?
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Are Dry Bars the New Thing?


This post was originally published on April 24, 2014.

So, according to Policy Mic, alcohol-free bars are becoming a “full fledged trend” in the UK. It’s just like a real bar, their owners say, except the menu is nothing but mocktails— fancy fruit-flavored drinks whose names play on their intoxicating inspirations. There are multiple advantages to dry bars—it’s a cheaper night out, no hangovers, no age restrictions, you can safely drive home, and—best of all, people say—no one is excluded. They’re designed to satisfy a “youth culture obsessed with drinking.” That said, dry bars are geared specifically towards people who don’t drink—far from what’s considered the norm.

Faux Bars

Over at the Date Report, blogger Rachel Sugar concurs. Such places may be a fun idea, she says, but the odds of them catching on are slim. Like any good trend—artisanal condiments, Sketchers Shape Ups, unpaid internships—dry bars will never really take off so long as they remain what Sugar describes as a “pale imitation” to the real thing (actual ketchup, old fashioned exercise, jobs that pay).

Dating Dry

One of the most common questions I hear asked by people that are new to sobriety is where to meet someone on a date. New York City may not have a dry bar yet, but I for one can think of plenty of “wet bar” alternatives. There are coffee shops or places to have a cheap dinner or just dessert, if it’s an issue of not wanting to commit the time to someone you may just be meeting for the first time. And, you know, activities that don’t involve consuming something might also make a nice date. Like maybe you could go to a movie or to a museum? In the 50s, I think they went bowling. I dunno! There are so many options! Personally, my favorite first date is me and my potential next boyfriend taking my dog for a walk. I get a look and a feel for the guy (eh, in the family friendly sense of the word) and so does my dog (his opinion counts, you know). And, well, Spud needs a walk, anyway. Two birds, one stone.

Isn’t this what a date is all about? It’s about getting to know someone, right? Not getting obliterated. Of course, I didn’t think this way when I drank. When I was a drinker, a date was merely a precursor to sex. A sort of song and dance before “the good stuff.” It wasn’t about getting to know someone but rather the opposite—it was all about blotting out red flags and getting fucked. Both of us being just a bit tipsy meant I could take a guy back up to my place without feeling like too much of a slutty slut. Without feeling too much at all.

I wasn’t after intimacy. At the risk of sounding old, neither, I suspect, is a youth culture obsessed with drinking. (Or many people new to recovery, I might be so bold as to say—which is one reason why it’s suggested we put off dating). In sobriety, I’ve gone on many, many first dates. Some were fun and some sucked; some were even really wonderful. I was there for all of them—all of me. No matter where we went or what we did, I didn’t drink.

Do You Really Have to Ask?

While I agree that more choices are a great idea—particularly for people with a desire to stop drinking—I’ve noticed that “Can you have fun without alcohol?” is a question that only alcoholics (or people new to recovery) really have to ask. People who’ve been sober awhile, along with non-alcoholics, know how to have fun and enjoy life sans booze. We know what to drink at a regular bar—there are always plenty of nonalcoholic options, including my favorite option of just not ordering anything. We know there are plenty of places to go to have fun and hang out besides a bar for the express purpose of getting drunk.

Me, I’m not really attracted to the idea of drinking a mocktail any more than I’d consider it enjoyable to smoke synthetic pot. I’d go so far as to say that it’s an addictive/alcoholic mindset that would find these things titillating. I agree, these things are sorry imitations—and the kind of fun I had when I drank was a sorry imitation of the kind of experiences I get to have now that I’m sober. I got sober because I want the real thing.

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About Author

Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and writing instructor living in New York City. She has written for NY Magazine, The Guardian, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, xoJane, The Fix and elsewhere. She is the founder of Becoming Writers, a community organization that provides free and low cost memoir-writing workshops to new writers of all backgrounds and experiences.