DENVER — As people look to make healthier choices and lifestyle changes post-pandemic, many people are trying to cut down on alcohol use. The trend — some call it sober-curious — can be seen around Denver in the form of sober events, and Denver’s first alcohol-free bar, Awake.
“We really need to push for this normalization of not drinking,” said Christy Wynne, who opened Awake with her husband, Billy, in May.
Billy Wynne says the business grew out of the couple’s own journey to giving up alcohol.
“I drank very avidly for 25 years. I felt like I experienced every range of experience that alcohol has to offer, and I was ready for something new,” Wynne said.
Awake looks like any normal bar — down to the walls lined with hundreds of bottles of liquids that look a lot like alcohol. But all the spirits, wines and beers served at Awake are alcohol-free. The non-alcoholic beverage industry is rapidly growing, with new methods of producing better tasting de-alcoholized wines and spirits.
“We really wanted to provide a space where we could have sophisticated drinks, beautiful, actually healthy drinks, and just make it a high level of sophistication,” Christy said.
The drinks simulate the taste and style of cocktails, while the setting at Awake is similar to the feeling and community of a bar.
“We want people to come here and have fun and find an activity or a way to commune and socialize that is good for them,” Billy said.
The Wynnes aren’t alone in in promoting healthy night life alternatives. Denver deejays Mike and Amber Handby started an alcohol-free concert series, Secret Dance Addiction.
“It's all the things that you love about an incredible party and none of the other parts,” Amber said.
The couple has organized Colorado’s first "detox" music festival, Sundown Colorado, on Sept. 11. It’s an all-ages event that encourages people to come together to celebrate music and mindfulness.
“When you have a community of people dancing and singing and having a good time, without that other stuff, it's really self-empowering,” Mike said.
Sundown will feature a sober bar hosted by Awake. The Wynnes aren’t surprised by the growing interest in sober events and alcohol-free drinks.
“We hear from people every single day from all around the U.S. and the world saying this needs to be in every single city,” said Christy. The couple is looking to expand around the Denver area and beyond Colorado.
Awake hosts events most evenings, including jazz night and an open mic night. They also sell many of the non-alcoholic wines, beers and spirits they serve. And in an effort to be both sober-conscious, and socially conscious, Awake donates 20% of its profits to charity.
While some alcoholics in recovery may not feel comfortable in a setting as similar as a bar, the Wynnes say they have employees who are in recovery, and many customers enjoy meeting people trying to stay sober.
“It's about gathering and clinking glasses and community, and you can attain that whole thing that you're really desiring without the alcohol piece,” Christy said.