Sans Bar got its start as a pop-up experience in 2017, before opening a permanent brick-and-mortar location in Austin, Texas in May 2018. In 2019 the Sans Bar team took the concept on a nine-city tour across the US, and will continue with 15 city visits this year.
Founder Chris Marshall told BeverageDaily he wanted to emulate the success of similar concepts that have been operating in Europe for the last 15 years.
“It just hasn’t taken hold yet in the US, but I think that’s something we will see change in the next couple years as people are becoming more aware of what they consume,” he said.
The response has been strong in Austin, drawing crowds of people looking for a safe sober space for a variety of reasons. Marshall has seen an uptick in flexible, ‘sober curious’ drinkers that haven’t ditched alcohol completely but are still intrigued by the concept. And a key part of the initiative is to provide a real world - yet sober - way of socialising with other people.
Sans Bar partners with and sells existing zero-proof alcohol alternatives, and also handcrafts a rotating menu of house mocktails. The space offers “live music, a vibrant, upscale environment, and sober drinks that you won’t find anywhere else.”
“We want to create a space that is free of alcohol and welcoming to all. We believe that the best version of anyone’s life includes healthy socialization, helping others, and taking care of both mind and body,” Sans Bar said.
On the 2019 tour, Marshall saw a distinct shift in Americans’ attitudes toward drinking, and found people in each city were ‘hungry’ for something permanent and local like Sans Bar.
An aversion to alcohol certainly upticks around this time of year when people are recovering from the holidays or taking on the challenge of ‘Dry January.’ But with more high quality alcohol alternatives launching and available year-round, lower booze consumption is becoming more common.
Mimicking the alcohol experience
Sharelle Klaus founded The Dry Soda Company in 2005. She had four children, and found that being pregnant or nursing didn’t allow her many options for social beverages.
Klaus created the Dry Soda drink to mimic the elevated experience of alcohol, first served at white tablecloth restaurants and in champagne flutes. It has since overlapped into other categories, like as a mixer or a healthier alternative to soda, and been accepted in the low-to-no alcohol movement.
“It’s been super fun for me personally to finally have this cultural shift happening, because I’ve been talking about this for 14 years,” Klaus said.
The product has gone through changes, and will be rebranded this spring as Dry Botanical Bubbly. Klaus said she chose botanical because people understand it as a premium, natural ingredient, and 'bubbly' indicates a celebration.
The brand will re-focus on occasion drinking to highlight its mission that social drinking is for everyone. The Dry product is available in Fuji Apple, Lavender, Blood Orange, Watermelon, Vanilla, Cucumber, Rainier Cherry and Ginger.
Sans Bar x DRY 2020 National Pop Up Tour
Dry Soda and Sans Bar have been working together to promote the sober curious movement, starting back at Sans Bar's first pop-up in 2017, and Dry participated in the 2019 tour.
In December, Dry Soda announced its investment and partnership with Sans Bar, saying that partnering more closely with Sans Bar would 'help bring our collective mission to life'.
Klaus will act as a strategic advisor to Marshall and attend many of the tour events, officially dubbed the Sans Bar x DRY 2020 National Pop Up Tour. It kicks off on January 10 in Seattle, and this year will have a particular focus on the Midwest.
“The middle of the country is where I really want to focus my energy because I feel like there’s a vibrancy there that people don’t always acknowledge," said Marshall. "I want to use this tour to highlight all the beautiful and wonderful things that are occurring in the Midwest.”
The Sans Bar x DRY 2020 National Pop Up Tour will visit 15 cities starting in January, including: Seattle, Wash. on January 10, Atlanta, Ga. on January 18 and Washington, D.C. on January 25. Additional dates will be announced for events in: San Francisco, Calif.; Boston, Mass.; Portland, Ore.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Des Moines, Iowa; New York, N.Y.; Reno, Nev.; Chicago, Ill.; and New Orleans, La.