Is a bar still a bar if it doesn’t serve alcohol?
That’s the existential question facing patrons of the “dry bars” that have cropped up lately across Britain, one of the world’s heaviest-drinking countries. At Sobar, in Nottingham, mixologists have approximated the pub experience with drinks that are designed to be sipped, not downed quickly—like Smokey Pete’s Meaty Mary (tomato and lemon juices, barbecue sauce, honey, and a bacon-based snack called Frazzles).
Nick Barton of Action on Addiction, a charity that owns The Brink, an establishment in Liverpool, doesn’t much care whether people think of the place as a dry bar, a café, or a glorified juice stand. What’s important is that it provides alcoholics a place to socialize without getting sloshed.
The name is an allusion to the harrowing precipices of addiction, Barton tells me, but it’s also fun to whisper into a cabbie’s ear: Take me to The Brink! He likes to think of The Brink, which is nestled among restaurants and pubs, as “a part of the drinking culture of Liverpool—not hidden away.” The brainchild of Jacquie Johnston-Lynch, whose brother was killed by a drunk driver, the bar opened in 2011—the same year the Liverpool Echo dubbed the city the “alcohol abuse capital of England.”