Is alcohol essential to the night time economy

Is alcohol essential to the night time economy?

It’s 10pm, you have just left the restaurant, where do you go now? A bar? If you don’t want to drink, if you don’t want to be around people who are drinking, where do you go? There isn’t much choice in our cities or towns anymore with over 50,000 liquor licenses across the country. It equates to having one liquor licensed premise for every 317 persons¹.

Recently I attended a local government forum where a major discussion topic was the night time economy, violence and alcohol. Many people said that they found it difficult to identify alcohol-free activities that they thought people may want to attend, because so many popular activities do involve drinking:

  • Movies – alcohol is sold in some cinemas
  • Cafes – the ones that open late often serve alcohol
  • Bars – serve alcohol
  • Night-time markets – serve alcohol

So GrogWatch was interested when we heard about the alcohol-free bars that are popping up in the northern hemisphere, as reported by The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

In Liverpool The Brink opened in 2011 and earlier this year Redemption Bar opened in London along with The Other Side in Chicago. One of the founders of The Other Side has explained the evolution of the bar in a story on GrogWatch and the bar received an interesting review from entertainment website BlackBook.  

All three bars have been established for people who are recovering from problems with alcohol. However, The Brink, which has been open the longest, has found that 50% of their customers are not in recovery². It appears that people want a sophisticated place to go and enjoy themselves without those around them drinking.

These dry bars offer patrons a good night with interesting mocktails, food and music being the focus. If The Brink’s success is anything to go by – turnover has increased by 50% since it opened² – dry bars might be a feasible option for Australia’s night time entertainment precincts.

Both The Brink and The Other Side are not-for-profit venues, but Redemption Bar is a businesses and it will be interesting to see how it competes in London’s competitive commercial environment.

We wonder whether Australia is ready for alcohol free-bars, or for a broader idea of a night time economy that is not founded on relentless drinking.

Julie Rae, Head of Information and Research at the Australian Drug Foundation

Have you heard of alcohol-free bars in your area? Or have you come across great night time activities that don’t involve alcohol? GrogWatch would be interested to hear from you.  



  1. Trifonoff, A., Andrew, R., Steenson, T., Nicholas, R., & Roche, A.M. (2011). Liquor Licensing in Australia: An Overview. Adelaide, SA: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University.
  2. Cocozza, P. (2013, 12 August). Dry bars will they be the next big thing? The Guardian. Retrieved from