Your say / Alcohol

‘Bristol pubs, bars and restaurants need to cater for the growing demand for alcohol-free alternatives’

By sam hall, Monday Jul 29, 2019

Seven months ago I had my last alcoholic drink at my mum’s pub in Bristol and since then my life has changed immeasurably for the better.

At 29 years old, I finally decided that my drinking years were behind me after suffering one hangover and embarrassing incident too many. I could no longer deal with the blackouts, the anxiety and the feeling of fear the morning after.

There is such a stigma around quitting booze – people assume you must have been pouring vodka on your cornflakes to have made such a drastic decision.

This was thankfully not the case for me. I had a good job, great friends and an incredible partner but my life revolved around alcohol in an unhealthy way.

Celebrating? Have a glass of prosecco. Commiserating? Get a bottle of wine. Going on holiday? Well, you simply must have a beer at the airport. One drink inevitably turned into three drinks, a glass of wine at home inevitably turned into the bottle.

Seedlip aperitifs at La Sorella

Since quitting alcohol, my mental health, relationships and bank balance have improved dramatically, and I’ve discovered a thriving online sober and sober-curious community.

My mission is now to bring that community to real life in Bristol – no more hiding in the shadows and feeling embarrassed to order a non-alcoholic drink.

Within the last week I’ve brought together a group of over 20 sober or sober-curious women in Bristol and the South West. We all have our own reasons for quitting and span from our 20s to our 50s.

The one thing we can all agree on is that we still want a social life, we still want to be able to go on a night out, or for a nice meal, and not be made to feel like a second-class citizen for daring to ask what alcohol-free options are available.

Not drinking alcohol does not equate to ordering lime and soda everywhere I go – I still want a ‘grown-up’ drink in a nice glass, and I’m willing to pay for it. And let’s not forget about the designated drivers, health-conscious and pregnant women among us.

We are a growing market to cater to and I am imploring the Bristol hospitality scene to take on this challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, there are already some fantastic bars and restaurants in Bristol stepping up to the mark including Cosy Club, The Ethicurean Restaurant, Pitcher and Piano, Zerodegrees, La Sorella Apertivo Bar and the Slug & Lettuce. Non-alcoholic spirit, Caleño, was also founded by Bristol entrepreneur, Ellie Webb.

Ellie Webb founded non-alcoholic spirit Caleño in Bristol

This needs to become the norm. Pubs are closing nationwide at an alarming rate. Since 2010, 25 of Bristol’s well-loved pubs have had to close their doors and this is sad to see.

Having a family in the business means I hear the complaints from landlords, chastising those who come in and have the audacity to order a soft drink. Perhaps if there were some more appealing alcohol-free or low-alcohol alternatives on offer, we might spend more and visit more regularly.

The demand is increasing – an entirely alcohol-free bar recently opened in Dublin and London is home to a thriving sober scene, including alcohol-free bars and sober events – and I believe that Bristol can meet this demand, as ever, in our own unique and creative way.

If this piece resonates with anybody who wants to find their own sober tribe, please get in touch via Instagram @soberbristol. We’ll be arranging regular meetups and socials in Bristol over the coming months and plan to create a thriving community in Bristol and beyond.

Sam Hall runs @soberbristol and has been sober since December 2018.

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