What is a bar without booze?
It’s a question that some Kelowna, B.C., business owners intend to answer in a couple of weeks when they open up the Okanagan’s first alcohol-free bar.
“It’s a bit of an experiment for us, too,” said Alex Viol, one of the owners of SOBAR and founders of Somm Zero.
“We’ll have the ambiance, music, drinks, wine bar lighting and glasses … all the good stuff from a bar, without the downside of alcohol that can kill the mood.”
Whether it’s the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction earlier this year asserting that no amount of alcohol is safe, and that no more than two drinks a week for men and women should be consumed, or people leaning toward healthier choices, a growing number of people are searching out alcohol-free experiences.
But by doing so, many are eschewing the pleasure that comes with a swanky wine bar or cocktail lounge.
That space is what SOBAR should fill, Viol said.
SOBAR will be open on Bernard Avenue, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will offer an “unmistakably” bar-like experience.
“Obviously, the no-alcohol market category has seen growth in recent years and it’s a category that I’ve been getting to know, both through trying various products myself and also because of friends and family who are on sober journeys for different reasons,” he said.
There are quality beverages available, though few of them are offered locally and that, he said, is a missed opportunity.
Viol said as a hospitality industry professional, his job is simply to provide excellent service and choices
for his guests, whatever their preference.
“I have always believed that great hospitality is inclusive hospitality, which is why we wanted to create a space where everybody was free from the limitations of alcohol. Our collaborative team is always looking to push boundaries and bring something new to the table,” he said.
The wine he’ll be bringing to the table is something he shows particular pride in.
“We only stock and serve wine that we can speak to the whole story of, from the vineyards to the wine-making and dealcoholizing,” he said.
“We’re showcasing beautiful bottles of wine and those who have taken care to produce them. We’ve tried hundreds of products in the market, and we only want to put our face and name to the stuff that represents the best in this category.”
While most of it is from out of the country, Viol said that there’s a B.C. winery, located in Summerland, that also produces non-alcoholic wines and he’s very impressed to see locals enter the fray.
However, more, he said, should join.
“I love B.C. wine. My cellar is full of it, and I want to see B.C. wine survive,” he said. “I hope I see a lot more local wineries dipping toe into this category in the future.”
The project is also a collaboration with Just Peachy, which is owned by Hannah Spinelli.
“Building this space over the past year and curating a menu of the best healthy food and beverages to serve to Kelowna has been a dream, but I’ve always wanted to explore more,” Spinelli said.
“After all, wellness doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Partnering with the Somm Zero team is a perfect pairing, we’re so excited to bring something new to downtown Kelowna.”
SOBAR launches Dec. 1 and will be open Wednesday through Sunday evenings.