Sober-curious: How sobriety is becoming cool

Forget bars and nightclubs. You'll find me at one of these sober social venues.

Amanda Capritto
7 min read

Remedy Place is a new "social wellness club" that features a sober bar and lots of high-tech physical recovery modalities, such as whole-body cryotherapy and nutrient IV therapy.

Madeline Tolle/Remedy Place

Walking down the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, you'd almost miss the haute, yet somehow low-key, sober club nestled among the bevy of cocktail bars, night clubs and taco huts that serve just the kind of food you have a hankering for after a night of debauchery. 

Of course, the 1.6-mile strip of Sunset Boulevard also hosts CycleBar and Rumble Boxing, because balance

As of Nov. 21, 2019, another wellness-oriented startup has nudged its way into WeHo, encouraging Los Angelenos to trade their boisterous, alcohol-clouded nights for something much quieter, more soothing and, quite frankly, much healthier. 

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Remedy Place proclaims itself the first-ever "social wellness club," and while founder Dr. Jonathan Leary may have the pleasure of coining that term, his new endeavor isn't the first to build upon the "sober-curious" trend currently rising up in big cities (Dr. Leary is, however, allegedly the first to combine the concept of high-tech physical recovery and sober socializing into one seamless institution). 

Wondering what this sober-curious movement is all about and where you can get your hands on a non-alcoholic cocktail that -- rather surprisingly -- makes you feel just as lively as the real thing? I met with Dr. Leary to discuss sober socializing and wellness, as well as tour the stunning Remedy Place. In this article, I discuss how sobriety is becoming accepted and even celebrated, plus where and how to experience the sober social scene. 

First, let me say that these social wellness clubs aren't meant to be replacement for alcohol dependency treatment. if you think you have a serious alcohol problem or dependency and want to get sober, you should talk to a doctor.

friends toasting a beer outdoors next to camper

For many people, alcohol is associated with fun, friends and bonding. But those in the sober-curious movement are realizing that the temporary effects of alcohol, like euphoria, aren't worth the long-term health consequences. 

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What is the sober-curious movement?

The sober-curious movement challenges the messages that consumers have been sold for decades -- alcohol is the way to unwind after work, celebrate life events (or a random Friday night) and soothe emotional pain. Remember "It's 5 o'clock somewhere," "I don't get drunk, I get awesome," and "Rosé all day?" 

The sober-curious movement disputes the notion that drinking is cool, sexy or necessary. It scraps the idea that drinking makes you happier, richer or more popular. It defies the conviction that adults need alcohol to have a good time. 

It's a relatively new movement, but it's not a small one. According to a Nielson study, nearly 50% of all U.S. adult consumers are making an effort to limit their alcohol consumption, with 66% of millennials reporting the same. The primary motivator -- according to 50% of survey respondents -- is health.

At the preview event for Remedy Place prior to its public opening, Dr. Leary choked up as he explains why his new business is so important to him. As a doctor of chiropractic, Dr. Leary says he has helped many patients regain functionality of their bodies, and that he largely opened Remedy Place to help people proactively take care of their bodies, so they don't end up with functional limitations in the first place. 

"I see all these people with perfectly functional bodies, just ruining them," he says. "I see someone outside pounding drinks or using all sorts of drugs and I'm just like, 'Do you know what some people would give to have your body and your abilities?'"

To Dr. Leary, proactively taking care of your body includes a blend of physical activity and recovery, smart nutritional choices and a full, exciting social life -- which is where the sober socializing part of Remedy Place comes in.

While I'm not one to deny the soothing effects of a glass of red wine after a long day, I see what Dr. Leary means, and it's not just anecdotal. Science has long reported the horrors of alcohol consumption: It interferes with your brain's communication pathways, can lead to heart problems, sabotages liver function, weakens and suppresses the immune system, can contribute to the development of certain cancers and the list goes on.  


No one likes being hungover, yet people subject themselves to the after-effects of alcohol over and over again. Sober-curious, in part, means trying out sobriety and seeing how it can positively influence your mood, health and productivity. 

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Why is sobriety becoming cool?

With wellness exploding in popularity in recent years, sobriety is sort of like the cherry on top of the wellness sundae. 

People have realized that they can workout every day, eat healthy, meditate and do all the other things that constitute self-care, but none of it matters -- or even feels worth doing -- when you spend your nights sullying your body with alcohol and, for some, recreational drugs. 

I certainly know the feeling. A night of heavy drinking leaves me feeling sub-par for more than just the following day. Often, I feel lackluster and irritable for several days. I'm far less likely to hit the gym after a night of drinking; my work quality and productivity suffer; and I get snappy when things don't go my way. 

That's not how I want to live -- I want to feel energized and motivated to work up a sweat. I want to breeze through my work and actually enjoy it. I want to be happy and rational. And you know what? All of those things come into existence if I've gone a week or more without any alcohol. 

Again, this isn't just an anecdotal phenomenon: Studies have shown that even taking short breaks from booze improves markers like insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and liver function. One month of alcohol abstinence can lead to weight loss, a sense of achievement and better sleep, according to one study that followed volunteers who participated in "Dry January."

More and more people are starting to realize that alcohol doesn't allow them to live their lives the way they want to live them. And so, out goes alcohol. 


Like any lounge that serves alcohol, the sober lounge at Remedy Place is designed to be extremely aesthetically appealing, welcoming and comfortable.

Madeline Tolle/Remedy Place

The sober social scene

For many people, the problem with sobriety is that can ruin their social lives. Hedonism, especially when it comes to nightlife, is ingrained into the social culture of the US. 

Think about it -- for most people it's always "Hey, let's meet for drinks" or "Are you coming to the company happy hour?" or "We're going out for so-and-so's birthday!" And in many social groups, it's hardly ever "Do you want to go to a cooking class with me?" or "Let's get some crafts and make something cool" or "Hey, a group of us are going to watch the sunset and have a picnic." 

It truly seems like the vast majority of people have forgotten how to have fun without intoxication of some sort -- in 2017, 56% of adults 18 and older reported that they drank in the last month. Some people that have decided to kick alcohol to the curb notice a dwindling in their social lives. I, for one, know that when I decide to stop drinking alcohol for a while, I don't see friends as often or attend as many events because, while you can totally rock a night out without drinking, it's not fun for me to be the only sober person in a bar. 

Leary experienced this firsthand, and his experience was a key driver in the development of Remedy Place. 

"I wanted to create a space for people who don't drink to have the same social opportunities as people who do drink," Leary told CNET during an interview about six weeks before Remedy Place opened. "I felt like I was losing friends when I made the decision to live healthier, and I wanted to put a plug in that." 

Because of the sober-curious movement and those who champion it like Leary, the way people look at sobriety has started to evolve, and the sober social scene doesn't show any signs of slowing down. 


"Mocktail" no longer means fruit juice or soda. Instead, bartenders at sober bars (and regular bars that have a dedicated non-alcoholic menu) put as much creative intention into mocktails as they would cocktails.

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Sober bars here, there and everywhere

Remedy Place joins the throng of sober bars and clubs cropping up across the U.S. The trend is big in LA, but it's also moving to other big cities -- San Francisco, New York City, Austin and more all have their fair share of sober social venues. Other bars, such as The Albert in Chicago, have started dedicated sections of their drink menus to non-alcoholic beverages, crafted with the same sophistication as a regular cocktail. Nationally, Daybreaker has caught on, bringing people wake-up calls via early morning, sober raves. 

Many traditional bars and clubs are also starting to serve "mocktails" -- non-alcoholic drinks that look and taste like cocktails -- in addition to their regular menu. In many cases, these mocktails provide the same level of sophistication that a fancy cocktail does, elevating them above simply ordering a rum and Coke, sans rum. A swath of alcohol-free distilled spirits brands have popped up, such as Kin Euphorics, Seedlip and Memento. There's also alcohol-free sparkling wine from Tost and Fre Wines; and non-alcoholic beer from many brands. 

If you can't find a friend to accompany you and you're nervous about heading to a social bar alone, consider joining a sober social group. There's Sober AF in San Diego, Sober Club Los Angeles, Sober NYC and many, many more. You can find sober social groups near you with a quick web search or by checking out Meetup.com, a social network that helps people to organize community events. 


Daybreaker's early morning sober dance parties have taken the sober-curious movement up a notch, proving to people all over the country that you can have fun in daylight hours and without alcohol.


No need to explain why you don't drink

In the US, many people's social lives center around drinking and many people feel like alcohol is the only substance that they feel obligated to explain their non-use. 

I'm sure many of you can relate to facing a barrage of often judgmental questions if you order a soda at the bar or decline an invitation to take shots: What do you mean you're not drinking? Are you on antibiotics or something? Oh, so you're trying to be healthier? 

At sober bars and social wellness clubs, you don't need to explain. No -- you'll find yourself among like-minded people who don't care why you don't drink. They are just as happy as you are to have found a safe space to socialize. 

As for me, I'll probably still continue to enjoy the occasional glass of red wine at home. But I'll definitely be more mindful of which social events I choose to attend and which social institutions I choose to frequent. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.