When you walk into Getaway, a stylish bar off a main avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, you could be in any number of Instagram-friendly cocktail spots in New York. The walls are tasteful green and blue, the space feels cosy enough that you could easily join a neighbouring conversation, and the menu features a list of $13 (£10) cocktails with ingredients like tobacco syrup, lingonberry and jalapeno puree, with a friendly note from the owners that laptops are not allowed.
But there is a crucial difference between Getaway and other Brooklyn bars: Getaway is totally alcohol-free.
A bar without booze sounds like an oxymoron, like an aquarium without fish or a bakery that doesn’t serve bread. But in cities like New York and London, where bars often function as second living rooms for apartment dwellers with little space, an alcohol-free nightlife option can appeal to people who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to drink.
Sam Thonis, who co-owns the bar with Regina Dellea, got the idea for Getaway three years ago, when he and his brother, who doesn’t drink, were trying to find a place to go out together at night. “There weren’t many nightlife options in New York that didn’t revolve around alcohol or weren’t trying to push that on you in some way,” Thonis says. “The more I talked to people, some of whom are sober and some of whom aren’t, the more I felt that people wanted that kind of space.”
In response, Thonis and Dellea made their bar a studiously 0% alcohol space, meaning that not even non-alcoholic beers that have a trace amount of alcohol are allowed on the menu. In the US, the term ‘non-alcoholic’ may be applied to beverages with 0.5% alcohol by volume or less, which means many popular non-alcoholic beers aren’t actually alcohol-free.
“It’s 0% as much as humanly possible, so if you’re sober and it’s an issue for you, or you don’t even want the smell of alcohol around you, you’ll be safe,” Thonis says. But it still looks and feels like a bar - it only opens in the evenings, the lights are low and no one appears to be working on their screenplay.