Addiction Counselor Seeks Permanent Home For Booze-Free Bar

By Keri Blakinger 03/02/18

Founder Chris Marshall says the Austin-based bar "proves that you can have fun without drinking.”

bartender serving a brightly colored drink

A sober bar is looking to set up shop permanently in the Lone Star State’s capital city. 

Sans Bar—currently a pop-up bar slated for an event during the South by Southwest (SXSW) arts & music festival on March 9—offers non-alcoholic drinks and sober atmosphere. 

The drink menu includes mixed drink-like concoctions like a Mint Collins and Jupiter Tonic. Though Austin’s only sober bar is aiming to raise enough money for a permanent location, as of now it’s holding strong with monthly events and fundraising pop-ups.

Eventually, though, the goal is to offer live music, healthy food and yoga classes along with booze-free drinks.

“I just got tired of watching the people I love die because they had nowhere to go that was safe,” the bar’s founder Chris Marshall wrote in an Instagram post. “Sans Bar proves that you can have fun without drinking.”

For the Austin transplant, creating a safe space for that sort of fun is a personal mission. He’s already worked in addiction counseling for a decade, according to the Sans website. 

“While working in the field,” according to the bar’s website, “he encountered hundreds wonderful people who endured the disease of addiction, and were searching for a new way forward. As the years went by he noticed an unfortunate trend; clients would get clean and sober, but return to treatment within weeks and sometimes days.”

After repeatedly fielding complaints about loneliness and boredom in early sobriety, he decided to take action. 

“Something had to be done,” his site says. “Chris began partnering with other individuals committed to creating a community of wellness and Sans Bar was born. Today, he has a singular mission: To make Sans Bar the top destination for sober fun and personal wellness.”

Marshall first launched fundraising efforts to open the bar back in 2015, with a quiet GoFundMe campaign

“To be an individual who is sober from drugs and alcohol is to be a survivor,” he wrote in a plea on the crowdfunding page. 

“Recovery is not a singular event, nor does it flourish in isolation. The cure is connection, and the answer to addiction is a complete lifestyle change.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.