What is clubbing without drinking? It has become engrained in the twenty-something psyche that going out is synonymous with consuming alcohol, and most of us assume we will be going home tipsy or drunk.
A 2015 government report on alcohol consumption in Canada said that many young people automatically associate drinking with social events and that “society condones supports and in some cases promotes drinking … associating alcohol with fun and sophistication.”
According to another 2013 report, a whopping 80 percent of the Canadian population 15 years and older drank in the previous year, making the consumption of alcohol an incredibly acceptable and oftentimes encouraged pastime.
But what if that was to change?
Introducing the sober nightclub. These experimental nightclubs cater to those who wish to avoid waking up with a pounding headache and a vague recollection of the events that unfolded the night before.
Take Swedish comedian Marten Andersson’s controversial nightclub, aptly called Sober. Located in Stockholm, this bar is more of a social experiment than a place to drunkenly hit on fellow partiers and sloppily grind on the dance floor.
“Swedes need to wake up and stop glorifying booze in the way we do. Life is too short for us to be wasted all the time,” said Marten in a Vice interview.
Entry into the club is only granted if you are 100 percent sober. Breathalyzers are used at the door, and if the machine reacts, you’re out. On its opening day, Sober was packed with over 900 people sipping on non-alcoholic beer, champagne and cocktails.
Sweden’s The Local reported the crowd to be a mixed bag of young hipsters, middle-aged former alcoholics, fitness buffs, spiritual yogis and breastfeeding mothers. Reviews of the opening night experience varied. Some insisted it was not so different than mainstream clubs, while others reported self-consciousness and boredom without the presence of liquid confidence.
“I want to inspire people and show them that you can have a bloody great time without alcohol. I want to offer an alternative to just getting hammered,” Marten told Vice.
It seems sober nightlife enthusiasts in New Zealand were also inspired by this alcohol-free notion.
In the summer of 2015, Tap Bar was opened in Auckland, New Zealand. Although the club does not boast a strict Breathalyzer system, it does not serve alcohol of any kind. There is a $15 entrance fee, and patrons are welcome to stay until 6 A.M.
It is an intriguing venture, in theory, but how realistic are sober nightclubs? Not very, according to the fate of both Sober and Tap Bar.
On December 12, 2015, Marten posted a final goodbye to those who took part in his Sober movement. In his message, he laments that Sweden was just not ready for an entirely sober nightclub: “I am still convinced that the idea will work out sometime. The question is not whether, but rather when.”
In the end, Marten thanks all those who attended and encourages patrons to “never forget. We did something damn cool!”
Auckland’s Tap Bar met a similar demise. The sober nightclub closed its doors after only five weeks in business. Co-owner Grady Elliot blames the close simply on a lack of interest. In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, he plainly stated, “No one showed up.”
Elliot has now applied for his liquor license and plans to re-open the Tap Bar into a full functioning, alcohol-serving nightclub.
Although the plight of these sober nightclubs seems to reveal a society not yet ready for nightlife sans alcohol, this is not entirely the case. Western society may not be able to create a permanent business that relies purely on an entrance fee and the purchase of mocktails, but there still exists a growing sober movement in Europe, the United States and even Canada.
Rave culture in Europe is shifting towards an appreciation for the music featured, rather than a drug induced party experience. Sober raves and morning dance parties are becoming increasingly trendy and promote the ‘conscious clubbing’ movement.
For instance, the London-born Morning Gloryville dance party is an early morning rave beginning at 6 A.M that offers “energizing music, free massage, organic coffee and smoothie bars, yoga and personal motivation from trained costumed performers.”
Photos of the event depict a sweaty group of colorfully clad individuals, grinning ear to ear, some catching bubbles and others moving freely to the revitalizing techno beat.
The festival has since spread to all over the world and offers a sober musical and visual experience from Tokyo, Japan to Toronto, Canada.
New York City, a hub for partygoers, has also been moved by the conscious clubbing trend. While the Big Apple is notorious for its party scene, the health and wellness trend has effectively taken over, inspiring the city’s clean club circuit.
The Get Down is an event that takes place twice a month in New York’s Meatpacking District. Founder, Tasha Blank holds events that “disrupt the status quo by injecting incredible beats with the intention to let wild our most liberated badassery.” Tasha’s DJ sets can also be heard at Deep House Yoga events, sober raves, and Burning Man and Wanderlust festivals.
For those interested in the sober club scene in Canada, Toronto hosts a number of events merging health and wellness with dancing and house music. On July 23, Night Nation Run will throw its first Running Rave featuring a five-kilometer route through DJ stages and ‘party zones’ that takes you to a the main festival venue. Similar to New York, Deep House Yoga and early morning dance parties can be found in pop up venues all over the city.