Britain is sobering up with alcohol-free 'dry bars'

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Marco Werman: For those of you who enjoy a tipple every now and then, here's a question: why do you drink? It's not a philosophical query. Ernest Hemingway said he drank to make other people more interesting. A more common reason might be to relax with friends or to unwind, but do you really need alcohol for that? In Britain, a number of bars have opened up recently that serve no alcohol. They're called "dry bars," places where people can hang out, have a bite to eat and drink things like mock-tinis. Alex Gilmore is the manager of one such establishment in Nottingham. It's called Sobar. Alex Gilmore: This is somewhat to provide a nice environment which isn't just a coffee shop. Someone in recovery or someone who doesn't want to drink still wants to put on their glad rags on and have a good night out. You can also feel that you want to go and have a very nice meal, share some time with people, perhaps see some live music and this just creates a safe environment for people to do that in. Werman: Who are your customers, then? They're not just recovery alcoholics, is it? Gilmore: No, not at all. It's been quite diverse, actually. Our customers range from families, we get a lot of families in here, we get a lot of women in here because I think they do feel that on Fridays and Saturday nights, we're in the main center of Nottingham, which does have quite a binge drinking culture and I think that women tend to feel that they're more secure and more safe in this environment. We get a lot of international students because obviously there are different religions that specifically don't drink. Then we just get the normal general public but it's been really diverse. Werman: We think of the UK as having people that just love their drink and really tend to binge drink, that's the stereotype. Is that changing at all, that impression of England? Gilmore: There's a lot more of a focus on your health now that's coming through. And increasingly,just even from when I started the Sobar, there's more and more and more of these dry bars that are actually becoming available to people. It's because I think people's mindsets are changing. We are aware of what it can do. We're specifically becoming more aware of addiction. Sometimes people just don't want to be in that environment anymore. It's becoming trendy to not drink whereas before I think it was trendy to drink. Werman: You're the manager there at Sobar, Alex, is the mission of creating an alcohol-free place personal for you as well? Gilmore: It is personal, I'm in recovery myself. I've been in recovery from cocaine addiction for four years now. It was very difficult. As far as I saw it, one way for me to look after myself at the time in recovery was that you obviously cut off any connection that you've got. So basically my life sort of stopped — the life that [I] knew. Going out in town, going to different places was incredibly difficult for me to put myself in a risky situation. So it's really personal for me because it's something that I just think is incredible. Werman: I gather that your bar and some of the others are actually getting support from the British government, is that right? Gilmore: Yes, we are funded by the National Lottery. We are a community interest company. The charity that set ours up is a charity called Double Impact, which is based in Nottingham, which provides after care for people that are out of residential recovery. We're non-profit making, so every penny that we make goes back into the charity itself, Double Impact. Werman: What's the best non-alcoholic drink that you serve, your best non-alcoholic cocktail? Gilmore: Rainbow Road. There's a very top cocktail bar in Nottingham called the Boilermaker and these boys are like scientists basically. I'm sure you have them in America too. They make very visually stimulating drinks. Werman: Mixologists they call them. Gilmore: That's it, yeah, and they are incredible. They were really interested in what we were doing and they designed our mocktail list for us. So the Rainbow Road has different concoctions of steam coming out of the top of it and glowsticks in the top. It's quite visually stimulating but it's not just a fruit punch, it has been created to be something you sip, that you don't drink, because I think that's what we were really keen to veer away from, was that there's only so much fruit juice that you can actually drink. We wanted a drink that was interesting and would stimulate your palate but at the same time just not have the alcohol content. Werman: Alex Gilmore, manager at Sobar in Nottingham. One of several non-alcoholic bars being established across the UK. Alex, great to meet you, thanks a lot. Gilmore: And you. Thank you.