Sober people tell us their favourite places to socialise

With going to the cinema being very on trend right now, we figured we'd ask sober people where else they enjoy spending time with friends

Hero image in post
photo: via Instagram (@feliciathegoat)
Hero image in post
photo: via Instagram (@feliciathegoat)

With going to the cinema being very on trend right now, we figured we'd ask sober people where else they enjoy spending time with friends

By Rhys Thomas31 Jul 2023
7 mins read time
7 mins read time

Can you believe the opening of Barbieheimer was only a little over a week ago? Wild how time works, isn’t it, with all its pushing and pulling. Anyway, whether you’re still radiating ken-ergy or not, one thing we can all agree on is that going to the cinema is back. And great! The red carpets, the popcorn smell, the hotdog smell, the Tango ice blasts, comfy seats, big screens and speakers. A lovely lovely vibe.

As well as vibing, cinemas are also a really nice sober space. Of course, you can drink in some cinemas, but generally it’s a place people can go and spend time being silent next to people, not using a phone, and just taking in a movie with a little (very big) soft drink. The UK is generally quite bad at sober spaces, like sure there’s coffee at daytime, but at night? Very little going on outside of pubs and bars and clubs. But of course, a lot of people are sober, sober-curious, and generally looking to drink less. So we decided to ask sober people where they like to hang out.

Chloe, London

“I’m not opposed to socialising in places that serve alcohol, like a pub or a bar, but I much prefer activity-style settings like board game cafes, pottery=painting places, or a good restaurant. I think having an activity to focus on often takes away the pressure of not having a drink or using alcohol as a crutch to socialising.”

Emily, Cardiff

“I tend to meet up with friends over food these days and I enjoy trying out new places to eat. I found it a bit tricky at the start of my sobriety journey as I previously relied on the first few drinks as a form of social lubricant. Soon after I realised that a lot of other people did too - everyone is so overly concerned with themselves, but I’ve since realised any social faux pas you make are quickly forgotten. I also still enjoy a good pub quiz, where it used to be an opportunity for me to sink a few pints, now it’s much more focused on quality time with pals (plus we actually get more of the questions right!)

I still struggle to be around people who are extremely intoxicated, especially when they’re bellowing a story they’ve already told me three times in my ear and do tend to avoid really late nights out. I can’t remember the last time I was in a club and have no desire to go back! I wish there were more of day raves, though. I love drum n bass but really don’t fancy staying up till 4am to see my favourite act. I’d also love to see a growing trend in sober raves, where the focus is on the music not the drink/drugs.

I run Sober Gals Wales and we put on events. Recent ones include a hike, and of course a trip to watch Barbie. Soon we’re doing a book club gathering, and a pottery painting class. All sober or sober-curious women or femme-identifying people are welcome at all of our events!”

Ian, Palm Springs

“I'll start by saying that I definitely don't meet as many strangers as I did when I wasn't sober, but I like to think I'm more present in the lives of people who've always mattered most to me! I'm big on chatting over dinners, lunches, and coffee, and I have a group chat on Signal with my two best friends that's essentially a 24/7 conversation. So yeah, I guess I'm more of a homebody these days because my social battery runs out a lot quicker without the chemical help, but those are all things I enjoy.”

Jack, Montreal

“Honestly the social aspect of being sober is the biggest struggle for me, because all of my social group still drinks — so going out is still centred around booze. What I tend to do now is try to make it “pub but there’s other things”. So we go to arcades or board game bars, or video game bars. It means I have something to do when it gets boring, which it does when they’re drunk. We actually have dry bars here [alcohol-free bars with a menu of mocktails and other alcohol-free drinks] but I don't miss the taste of alcohol so it just feels like a way to spend like $50 on fancy lemonade.

Weirdly I got mad into sport when I quit drinking, so I do a lot of hockey and football, even though that stuff is still pretty booze themed I find it easier. I guess overall my approach is to ensure alcohol isn’t the only purpose of an event. But to be clear it sucks shit sometimes.”

Kitty, London

“I’ve always been sober and I love hanging out at the pub. My issue is you’re either a hot or a soft drink sober, being a hot drink sober is difficult when you’re in a pub and can’t get a cup of tea there. I wish more cafes were open later, but Caffè Nero tends to be open fairly late. I go out for dinner far more frequently than my friends who drink do, they tend to go to pubs and bars. I find restaurants that are open all day tend to have more flexibility on the drink options, so I often go to those. Bars are a no go for me because they’re so heavily focussed on the drinks side of things.”

George, Brighton

“I had a liver transplant for non-alcohol related reasons which means that I'm only allowed to drink on "special occasions" and generally not allowed to get drunk so I have a fair amount of experience with socialising sober. I personally found that once you get used to how much people's behaviour changes after as little as one drink, that it's fairly easy to socialise in the same ways as before.

Initially, most of my socialising went from alcohol-based situations to going for dinner, coffee, cooking for people, meeting up in the day time or going to events instead. Nowadays I'm totally comfortable going to pubs, parties and nights out without drinking alcohol. I would say I'm lucky in a sense, because it’s medical no one ever really questions me about not drinking so I don't ever face any pressure.”

Tom, London

“I don’t really seek sober spaces, and I sort of resent this idea that there's a new place or area for me to be in. The idea of being targeted by marketing as ‘the non-drinker’ makes me cringe. Plus I don’t like the idea that I have to change my tastes and interests just because I don’t drink.

When I was drinking heavily I used to go to Irish pubs, pubs with carpets, those kinds of boozers and I still go to those boozers. Most of them have a 0% Heineken, some have fancier options, like the Coach and Horses in Soho. The Antwerp Arms in Tottenham which is local to me has a Guinness 0.0 so I have that and just feel like I’m with everybody else, having a Guinness. Some of my mates are still very heavy drinkers, I go out less and I'm certainly in pubs for a shorter period of time. The novelty wears off quicker, but that’s the joys of not drinking, it gives me time to do other stuff.

I’ve been to a sober club night once, it was called Club Soft. That felt like a club night that happened to not have booze as opposed to a booze-free themed might. It was just good music. I wouldn’t say no to doing that again but generally sober specific spaces don’t fill me with joy."

Catherine, Edinburgh

“Nowadays I go all the places I did when I was drinking; the pub, the park with friends when they’re having a picnic with some wine. Earlier in my sobriety I avoided all that because it was too triggering.

When I was newly sober I joined a book club to meet new people and have something to do that didn’t revolve around alcohol. I also spent an insane amount of time at the cinema (I had a Cineworld card and went a minimum of three times a week). I’ve also been to some sober raves which were surprisingly fun!”