The UK needs more late night venues that aren’t pubs, bars or clubs

Set the scene. Born and raised in London, 27, trying to live my best life in the city after Covid. The only problem with the little baby is that I’ve been sober for 18 months.

As someone used to navigating the city via its watering holes (as well as previously finding a way to squeeze a drink in nearly every possible situation), now that I’m trying to do just the opposite, I noticed the huge lack of places to go out at night in my home town that don’t have alcohol as the main attraction.

In London, after 6 p.m., your options in terms of spaces to relax with friends or spend time alone outside your home are very limited to pubs, bars and clubs. These establishments not only guarantee that alcohol will be a key part of your evening, but also require you to part with a significant sum of money, even if you do not drink. Since cafes are usually closed, unless you want to do a specific activity, like attending a fitness class, going to the movies, or going to the theater, you have little other choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love good pubs. When the colder months approach, snuggling up in a corner by the fire to enjoy a roast dinner signals that Christmas is coming like nothing else. Likewise, I love how going to the right fancy cocktail bar can make me feel like a femme fatale. And of course, I love food. Especially now that I’m sober, I spend a lot more time with friends browsing an ever-growing list of places around the capital to fill our stomachs.

However, sometimes I want to meet a friend and not commit to a full sit-down dinner. I may not have the budget or the energy, or maybe I just ate already. You might also be like me and can’t always stand being around drunk people, especially if you’re trying to stop thinking about the fact that you’re not drunk, that you haven’t been in a year and a half. and that you will never again, which crosses a visit to the pub or a bar off the list. Plus, I’ve found that while the ability to work from home has been one of the few benefits of Covid, it also means that relaxing with your work laptop staring at you can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes we all just want to get out of our fucking homes.

So what other options are available? Despite the pervasive British drinking culture strongly influencing the way we spend our evenings, there are a few promising initiatives happening across the UK to create options for non-drinkers. There’s a wave of non-alcoholic options available in bars, from non-alcoholic beers like Lucky Saint available on tap to mocktails now found in most places. In terms of spaces, if you want to avoid alcohol altogether, that’s tricky, but I also discovered some wonderful bookstore cafes and reading areas open later in the evening, great areas to sit in peace with a book and a hot chocolate. While these options are highly regarded, these few soft drinks and niche bookstores aren’t enough to cater to the many people who want to socialize without the presence of alcohol.

Many other countries and cultures have mastered the art of the alcohol-free hangout where the UK has not. A few years ago I was invited to visit a friend in Beirut. I was 22 and ready to party in Eastern Paris! As my friend was staying with her family for the summer, most of the trip was not spent visiting the bars and clubs the city had to offer as I had imagined. Instead, we visited sites like the port city and castle of Saida and the iconic cedars that represent Lebanon and witnessed a baptism with a feast that put any wedding breakfast to shame I had seen. While the trip turned out to be one of the most fun and culturally rewarding I’ve been on, as a bit of a heavy drinker, I was surprised at how well the itinerary circled around the alcohol.

I also remember being surprised by some of the cultural attitudes towards alcohol consumption that I witnessed. One balmy evening, as we walked along a seaside boulevard well after sunset, I saw throngs of people sitting outside cafes, sipping iced coffees, chatting and enjoying the company of their friends. You are in Beirut! I wanted to scream. By the sea! Why would you choose anything other than a cold beer or a glass of wine to drink? I felt sorry for these people – I just couldn’t understand, because in the UK, in the same place, there wouldn’t be a caffeinated drink in sight other than a Jager bomb, or if you had any luck, an espresso martini.

In countries like Morocco where the majority of the population is Muslim, it is difficult to find alcohol readily available even in the tourist capital of Marrakech. Instead, people sit on terraces that overlook the square in the heart of the medina and drink mint tea with huge spoonfuls of sugar. You can still watch the sunset, but not from a pub.

Closer to home, European café culture, which London has never managed to emulate despite its best efforts, seems to offer a better place to enjoy a cup of coffee with a pastry, and if you drink, make the most of it. a glass of wine. It’s perfectly acceptable to settle down for a few glasses of wine rather than a whole bottle each, which certainly happens a lot in the UK.

The future looks bright for teetotalers, as 2022 statistics show that Gen Z spends 40% less on alcohol than their millennial counterparts at the same age. As attitudes change, not only will this mean greater demand for alcohol-free spaces, but people will have to cater to a new market that wants the ability to enjoy their alcohol-free time. Personally, I think businesses are going to miss out if they don’t start making changes, because consumers are going to start demanding the spaces they want.

Comments are closed.