This Female Founder is Making Booze-Free Bars a Thing
Five years ago, on her 27th birthday, Lorelei Bandrovschi decided to take 27 dares from friends & family that would challenge her to grow in different ways. One of those experiments was taking a month off alcohol, and while she didn’t know it at the time, it sparked an interest that would soon become her full-time mission: Listen Bar, “a booze-free bar in New York City, rewriting nightlife beyond alcohol.”
“Before taking that month off, I had never really thought about drinking past having a rough hangover in the morning and telling my self ‘oh god, I’m never drinking again’ and even that would be in a very normalized way, where of course, I actually didn’t mean it”, Lorelei told Mindful Feminism.
“A lot of people say ‘I’ve never made room for this conversation in my life,’ and I think that’s because we’re all just going with the flow. Right now, the flow is that when you’re going out, you’re drinking. And that kind of current pulls so strongly, that you don’t even notice there’s a choice to go any other way”, she added.
As the booze-free month unraveled, Lorelei started becoming more aware of how difficult it was to go out in NYC without adding alcohol to the equation. Two things especially stood out: “the underwhelming menus for non-drinkers and the unnecessary awkwardness with fellow bar-goers and bartenders when you decide not to drink. New York is a place where you can buy a unicorn smoothie with edible glitter, but when it comes to hanging out without booze, it still falls short”, she mentioned laughing.
Interestingly, Listen Bar is not built around getting rid of alcohol, and judgment has no place in the conversation they’re trying to create. In fact, the absence of liquor passes utterly unnoticed because of all the wonderful elements that take its place. In Lorelei’s words: “I wanted to replace the whole conversation of ‘you’re not drinking -why aren’t you drinking?’ with ‘this place is so cool, who’s playing? who’s bartending?’ things we actually have an interest in and can bond over, as opposed to the things we’re rejecting.”
If you think that you absolutely need alcohol to socialize or have fun in general, there’s probably a lot about the bar experience that you haven’t thoroughly soaked in. “There’s so much that happens in a bar to set the stage; everyone ordering side by side, all the small interactions, the way the music sets the tone, the way bartenders make you crack up & feel special.” And each one of these elements is meticulously considered and enhanced at Listen Bar: “Our entirely alcohol-free menu was created by cocktail world rockstars, together with experts on herbalism and nutrition. Our cast of musician bartenders slings drinks and picks out our rowdy, indie-leaning playlists.”
In Lorelei's experience, something that initially seems like a restriction, actually turns out to be an occasion for self-discovery, “maybe you’re funnier, maybe you’re more vulnerable, maybe you’re more awkward, the bottom line is we don’t really give ourselves the opportunity to socialize in these new ways.”
Although when people think wellness, they frequently think Zen-like spaces and cucumber water, Listen Bar transcends that narrow definition. Lorelei explained why beautifully. “I believe people have a lot of fire in them, they have zest, love for life, and lust for each other, and I think the spaces that allow us to tap into that fire have been coopted by industries that only prescribe it in a certain kind of more intoxicating way -I don’t think that’s necessarily required.”
So while increased health and overall wellness are lovely results of reducing alcohol consumption, these aren’t really the core motives that drive this venture. For the founder, it’s about having fun on your own terms: “My goal is to exist within the culture of going out for a drink, we’re just giving people a better option for the time when alcohol isn’t what they’re looking for.”
The intentions of Listen Bar are wonderfully reflected in its title. “There are several reasons to our name, and the first is because in many ways we’re putting music at the center of the experience rather than alcohol. Although I won't lie, once you have one of our drinks you’ll end up coming back. However, on a deeper level, when you remove alcohol you’re better able to listen, to the people around you, to your body, how you’re feeling, and even to music, you’ll surely be more present to experience that.”
Fantastic innovation of this sort is precisely the reason we need more female founders! And good news, you can support Listen Bar’s growth by joining their crowdfunding campaign on IFundWomen. Plus, if you’re in NYC, on March 11th, Listen Bar is hosting Girls Gone Badass a one of a kind girls night out in honor of women’s history month. With hangovers out of the picture, there's no excuse to miss it!