The past couple of years I’ve been envious of cities like Brooklyn, New York, Long Beach, California and Austin, Texas (among others), because they have bars that cater to people who aren’t drinking for any reason or no reason. Well glory hallelujah, I’m no longer 50 shades of green, because New Orleans finally has its first brick-and-mortar sober bar, Dream House Lounge.
The brainchild of educator Dr. David Wallace, Dream House Lounge in the Central Business District is an oxygen bar, “conscious cocktail lounge” and zero proof bottle shop that opened in July during the Essence Festival of Culture. It’s no surprise to me that the city’s first zero proof cocktail lounge is Black owned. The sober curious movement is in many ways — like a lot of future-thinking, cool and consciousness lifting things — is being driven by the Black community and many of the people at the head of the pack are garnering national attention.
For example, the aforementioned zero proof cocktail space in Austin, Texas is Black owned. Founded by Chris Marshall, Sans Bar opened in 2017. Marshall has been interviewed by various national outlets and does occasional popup tours across the country. The sober/sober-curious online community Sober Black Girls Club, which has upwards of 22K followers on Instagram, is owned by a woman of color and its founder, New York-based civil attorney Khadi A. Oluwatoyin, has been featured on various national TV shows, such as “Red Table Talk” and on Katie Couric’s podcast.
Here in New Orleans, the charge is being led by Wallace with Dream House Lounge, as well as Robert Haynes and Michael Olaiyaco-founders Cadera Brands, which created and produces the antioxidant- and adaptogen-infused Yoro beverage you’ve likely seen pop up in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and on store shelves. The Sober Bar Babe, which arguably was the first sober bar in New Orleans, is a mobile bar that is usually posted up outside of the arch at Louis Armstrong Park. Dell Green launched the bar in 2018 and has not only a variety of alcohol-free beverages on option, but also snacks.
While several local bars and restaurants have inclusive zero proof cocktail menus, are happy to make a mocktail upon request and generally have at least one non-alcoholic beer on offer, Dream House Lounge is the first dedicated zero proof bar and bottle shop that not only has cocktails made with zero proof spirits, but also carries dealcoholized wine, which is a first for New Orleans as far as my research and experience has uncovered. This is something I didn’t think I’d see locally for at least another three to five years. Cheers to the city’s Black entrepreneurs for their leadership in this and so aspects of New Orleans’ rich culture and to more growth in the alcohol-free space in general in the coming months and years.
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