Is Anchorage ready for an alcohol-free bar?

Forget the stigma, it’s about socializing while staying healthy

Getting out, meeting people, and staying socially active is hard enough, but going out while abstaining from alcohol is even more challenging, especially in Anchorage.

This town was built on heavy drinking, in fact, 4th Avenue was once nicknamed the world’s longest bar, and we’re not talking about classy drinking establishments; these were hole-in-the-wall dive bars where people went to get blackout drunk, a tradition likely founded by binge drinking G.I.s but who could blame them? Back then, there wasn’t much else to do in Anchorage at night and to be honest; we’re still working on that.

In New York, “booze-free” bars like Listen Bar are gaining popularity by providing a venue that is not centered on consuming alcohol. There’s no expectation of sobriety; they just don’t serve alcohol. Instead, they serve finely crafted alcohol-free cocktails created by the area’s top mixologists focusing on herbalism and nutrition. They also serve locally brewed non-alcoholic beer and kombucha.

Young people are increasingly opting out of drinking alcohol for health benefits, particularly avoiding hangovers – we’re calling them sober-curious. Other benefits of sans-alcohol nightlife include the lack of peer pressure, regrettable choices, and a safer experience overall.

Is Anchorage behind the times? Actually, no, we’ve already tapped into this with “mocktail tasting” events at places like Uncle Leroys (an inclusive coffee venue), which partnered with Sans Bar National Tour, Recover Alaska, and Mike Jipping, the creator of Beach Tribe Soda Works – a local ginger beer brewer. Jipping makes hand-crafted alcohol-free cocktails packing a punch of flavor that almost feels like a stiff drink but tastes way better and, best of all, no guilt.

The only guilt comes from using terminology inherited from a long-established drinking culture; words like mocktail, soft drink, and non-alcoholic serve to stigmatize and marginalize opting for alcohol-free drinks and ultimately pressure you into consuming a “real drink.”

Local musicians like Quinn Christopherson, Nick Carpenter, Kittiwake, and Emma Hill have recently headlined successful sober concert events (including Sans Bar). Aside from being more inclusive, the lack of intoxication (or intoxicated people) helps the audience appreciate the music’s artistic value and creates a more enjoyable and intimate experience for everyone.

Anchorage is still a young city, but we’re maturing and creating our own identity. Our past does not define us, and the same applies to our people. We’re already forming a community that provides a supportive environment for anyone who wishes to participate.

We’ve already had sober bars and popup alcohol-free “bars,” but perhaps there’s a more permanent establishment in our future?

Edit: After talking with Listen Bar I made some edits to the original story to clarify their business model and some potential misconceptions about the sober-curious movement.