In spring 2021, Colorado will officially have its first alcohol-free bar. Building on the sober trend that’s been mounting in recent years, Jefferson Park’s Awake Denver will be a zero-proof bar/coffee shop/alcohol-free bottle shop taking over the former space of—irony alert—Hidden Idol tiki bar.
“It’s really about building community,” Awake owner Billy Wynne says. “In a traditional bar, alcohol does the work of removing inhibitions and creating a sense of community. Our goal is to create that without the chemical. The benefits of having clear-headed, memorable, meaningful communication, that’s why we’re here.”
Wondering what’s served at a zero-proof bar? The sober and sober curious will be impressed by the increasing array of alcohol-free gins, beers, and wines on the market, as well as the experimental mocktails being crafted around town that rival any proofed drink. Local makers like Longmont’s Bootstrap Brewing are getting in on the movement, too, with the launch of their first nonalcoholic beer in November. So, yes, you can have a martini, a pint of beer, or glass of rosé, all without experiencing alcohol’s negative effects.
These types of zero-proof bars have sprouted up around the country, and Wynne, a former microbrew connoisseur himself, has been talking with owners of two of the more successful ones, Brooklyn’s Getaway Bar and Austin’s Sans Bar. “It’s a great, small community of people who believe in the mission of this movement, and also who want the concept to be normalized,” Wynne says.
Because the audience is smaller for this sort of bar, Awake has more to offer than the typical watering hole. Beginning sometime in November, Awake will start serving Queen City coffee and Aspen Baking Company pastries out of its front window. Next, just before Dry January, the alcohol-free “liquor” store inside the space will open, selling many of the beverages Awake will eventually carry at its bar.
“Currently, the best selections of alcohol-free liquor are at liquor stores. That means you have to go by a wall of Fireball shots and be immersed in alcohol to get to them. People in bona fide recovery can’t go into a liquor store. We’re hoping that this will be helpful for people,” Wynne says.
The bar itself won’t open until next spring, when the patio will be ready to welcome imbibers al fresco. Besides keeping your mind and body healthy, another plus of drinking at Awake is that 2 percent of sales and 20 percent of profits will go to local charities, beginning with Denver Children’s Advocacy Center during the month of November. Veterans, active duty service members, and those on Medicaid or SNAP benefits will always receive a 20-percent discount.
“We wanted to create this space that had a charitable orientation, was radically welcoming, and was a safe, peaceful, diverse place for people to hang out and form community,” Wynne says. “And to have it really feel like a bar.”
Awake Denver will open for coffee service in November, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. (check for updates here); 2240 N. Clay St., Unit 100