There’ll be a new bar in town come spring, and owners Billy and Christy Wynne want you to know that it is, in fact, a bar.
“It’s not a juice bar, it’s not a cava bar, it’s not a kombucha bar,” Billy Wynne said. “It’s a bar.”
Why the clarification? Awake Denver is a zero-proof bar currently serving coffee, breakfast, and alcohol-free beer, wine, and spirits from their in-house “liquor” store. Although COVID-19 restrictions are forcing the Jefferson Park establishment to rely solely on window-service at the moment, Awake Denver will be Denver’s first alcohol-free bar when the mocktails start flowing in the spring.
“We want it to feel like a bar,” Billy said. “It’s an interesting thing to try to create a sense of community and comfort without alcohol… so we’re gonna do all we can to make the drinks interesting, make the music interesting, make the atmosphere welcoming.”
Billy and Christy’s drive to create such a place grew from their own experiences with alcohol. The two have both been sober for almost two years, and Christy has been working as a sober coach for about a year and a half. They believe the sober-curious movement is gaining traction, and want to play a part in its growth. Christy said that even though drinking was at an all-time high during the pandemic, she had still seen people seeking “a higher-conscious sort of life.”
“They’re ready to wake up which is exactly what Awake is about,” Christy said. “It’s about providing a safe space in the community for people to go and to understand that alcohol-free can be just as amazing and beautiful and fun as what they perceived drinking to be.”
Being the first zero-proof bar in Colorado, Awake Denver is a unique undertaking for a state with a complex health identity. Denver Public Health reported in 2019 that more than one in four Denver adults binge drinks.
“There’s sort of this weird paradox in Colorado,” Christy said. “We’re all so active and fit, but we also have some of the highest binge drinking rates in the U.S..”
But Awake was not made to judge anyone who likes to drink. This bar is meant for the sober, sober-curious, and drinkers alike.
“We want everybody,” Billy said. “Whether they are in recovery or they just wanna have a night out without alcohol, we wanna be a place for them.”
In order to make their alcohol-free drinks stand out, Awake will be working with a mixologist to create specialty concoctions designed to do exactly what alcohol can’t. Stress-reducing herbs called adaptogens and other ingredients with healing properties will be combined in thoughtful creations that touch on different parts of the palate.
“I know Billy is really into the craft beers and those kinds of things, but I am so into the drinks that we’re gonna create,” Christy said. “It’s not just gonna be like a typical mocktail that you would think of.”
Take Ghia, for example. This aperitif is a selection of “social tonics” currently for sale in Awake’s zero-proof store, though it will make an appearance behind the bar come spring. With forward-facing notes of herbal and botanical extracts, this Mediterranean-inspired drink is flavorful to say the least, and perfect for someone looking to craft a beverage that stands out from other alcohol-mimicking offerings.
But the Wynnes are not solely focused on their unique drink options. They also want to support the surrounding community with 20 percent discounts for veterans, active service members, and people on Medicaid and food stamps. They will also donate 2 percent of sales and 20 percent of profits to local charities that focus on providing help with mental and behavioral issues, addiction and recovery through a monthly rotating program. Their charity partner for December is Housed Working & Healthy, a community business collaborative established to help people become self-sufficient by simultaneously addressing people’s housing, mental health, and employment status.
Awake Denver is located at 2240 N. Clay St., Unit 100, and open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. You can also find them online at awakedenver.com.