No alcohol web

Is booze-free becoming the new black?

Recent news reports over the last month or so has got GrogWatch thinking…

Is booze-free about to become the next big thing in Australia as businesses realise there may be a ‘sober-dollar’ to be made?

For those of us who keep an eye on alcohol trends around the world, there is a small but increasing number of articles appearing in our newsfeeds about various nightclubs, bars and events which are choosing to go alcohol-free. The growing dedication of many people to alcohol-free periods such as FebFast, Ocsober and Dry July are providing many people with insight and more acceptance of socialising without alcohol. This year FebFast recruited more than 50 businesses which provided FebFast friendly venues  (not necessarily booze-free but sober-friendly) and promoted them to FebFasters.

Alcohol-creep is a phenomenon many regular GrogWatch readers will be familiar with. It describes the constant stretching of boundaries about where and when our society allows alcohol to be sold. Once upon a time (not very long ago) it was big news when cinemas started selling alcohol to drink during the film and when getting a glass of wine while getting your haircut became the norm for many. The boundaries we once took for granted – such as alcohol not being a feature of primary school fetes – seem to have corroded as the industry continually attempts to normalise and promote drinking as an everyday event so they can increase their sales.

Capitalism requires businesses to innovate and find niche markets, and while alcohol-creep is a concern, the counter-culture it is producing is encouraging and exciting. It appears growing awareness of the risks of alcohol-related harm to individuals and the community is creating demand for venues and products that avoid these harms.

Sales of alcohol-free alternatives to beer, wine and liquor are on the increase. In fact, research published recently showed that almost half of British adults believe alcohol-free beer is more socially acceptable than it was five years ago.

Numerous alcohol-free bars in the UK and US are starting to pop up and provide alternatives for those who chose to enjoy a night out without alcohol. The patrons of these venues may be choosing to take a temporary break from alcohol, choosing to not drink at all or simply want to socialise without being surrounded by other people drinking alcohol. These kind of venues also provide – as one alcohol-free UK bar manager put it – “a safe place for people with a history of substance and alcohol abuse”.

Swedish entrepreneur and television personality Mårten Andersson recently made news in Australia when he suggested Australia should open alcohol-free nightclubs to tackle our cultural perception that we need to have a drink to have a night out. Mr Andersson is about to open a night called Sober at a nightclub in Stockholm. Clubbers will be breath tested at the door and alcohol will be banned inside the venue. According to news reports, the night is nearly sold out. Unfortunately many appear to be threatened or dismissive of the idea, which is hard to understand because nobody is being forced to attend.

In Australia, there are some venues and events really providing unique sober alternatives, but generally it appears we’ve been a little bit slower off mark. However, booze-free events do appear to be more common on our shores as well. Already we have seen the No Lights No Lycra concept take off in Melbourne, and pre-work and lunch-time alcohol-free raves have arrived in Australia from the UK.

Here at GrogWatch we are excited to see events and venues providing alternatives for those who want to socialise without boozing.

We’ll be keeping an eye on some of these trends, and we’d love for you to send through any that you hear about too. Have you been to an alcohol-free bar or club?