Capitalizing on a trend, Kelowna's first sober bar prepares to open
Two local Kelowna businesses are collaborating to launch SOBAR, the city’s first zero proof wine and cocktail bar, due to open in less than a month.
The project is a collaboration between Somm Zero – a local zero-proof beverage specialist – and Just Peachy – a wellness bar in Kelowna sourcing local ingredients and offering healthy food and drinks. The new bar is opening at Just Peachy’s current location at 525 Bernard Avenue.
“Lots of people are doing amazing work with zero-alcohol beverages around the country and Kelowna is a perfect place with its wellness health style here,” said cofounder at Somm Zero, Alex Viol. “The reception has been fantastic, even overwhelming and there is an energy for it.”
The business owners behind the collaborative project aim to “rethink wellness” with a focus on inclusivity and a positive lifestyle.
“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,” said owner of Just Peachy Hanna Spinelli in a media release issued Nov. 6. “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.”
Viol along with two other sommeliers with Somm Zero is working with Simps Modern Beverage — a Kelowna company specializing in non-alcoholic beverages — to create zero-proof wines, cocktails and craft beers.
“I’ve really enjoyed exploring this interesting new market category and I’ve seen great progress in the quality of the beverages,” he said. “We’ve made it our mission this year to try as many products as we can in the market from all over the world through our methodical tasting skills. We’re amazed at the quality we’ve found and the passion from producers to develop this market space to give people quality choices.”
Viol said he is happy to partner with Spinelli of Just Peachy to share the downtown venue.
“She (Spinelli) creates healthy foods and smoothies, it’s a cool, casual and fun space,” he said. “We had the team and she had the wonderful space so we partnered to make the most of that.”
Viol is looking forward to seeing how well received the sober bar will be and is interested in the subject.
“When you think about taking out the alcohol it puts things in a different perspective,” Viol said. “What does it mean to get together alcohol free, what kind of spaces does it happen in and how can different people enjoy it? It's encouraging and positive that people are thinking of how alcohol fits into their lives."
Viol said younger generations don’t seem to have the same affinity for alcohol as other generations had at their age, but there are many reasons why people of all ages could want to reduce alcohol intake or remove it altogether.
“Some might want to reduce for health reasons, or maybe they are athletes in training,” he said. “It could be young professionals who want to stay clear headed but like opening wine or beer mid week, or expectant mothers. It’s up to us to provide a space for all walks of life to enjoy quality zero-proof beverages.”
The trend toward non-alcoholic beverage consumption has been on the rise for a couple of years, with the non-alcoholic bar culture already alive and thriving in the lower mainland.
A report by the International Wine and Spirits Record released last year predicts no and low alcohol consumption will increase by a third by 2026 in 10 global markets, including Canada.
Driven by increasing consumer demand, the trend is predicted to keep growing with non-alcoholic drinks taking the lead over low alcoholic drinks.
“As more people opt to avoid alcohol on certain occasions – or abstain from it altogether – no-alcohol is steadily increasing its share of the no/low category,” said Susie Goldspink with IWSR Drinks Market Analysis in the report.
Millennials are the largest age group opting for the no or low alcoholic beverages across the globe. Younger legal drinking aged drinkers are the biggest group reaching for the non-alcoholic options.
SOBAR launches Dec. 1 and will be open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations can be made through email at email@example.com or through all socials @sommzero.
“We’ll see what happens, what is a bar like without booze?” Viol said. “We’ll see whether it’s as popular as we hope, with great food, music and good vibes. I hope it encourages other places to thing about options they can provide for people who don’t drink alcohol.”
—This article was updated at 10:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15 , 2023, to show the correct spelling of Somm Zero.
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