‘Sober-curious’ eastern Iowans plan no-booze New Year’s Eve

The start of 2023 is a few days away, and some people will be ringing in the new year without any alcohol.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - 2023 is a few days away, and some people will be celebrating without champagne or any other kind of alcoholic drink.

“It’s really about, ‘What is alcohol taking away from my life?’ more than ‘What is it adding to it?’” Angie Chaplin, coordinator for Smart Recovery, said.

Chaplin struggled with alcohol abuse for about a decade, but now she’s been sober for about three years. However, she still likes the bar environment.

“There is significant opportunity for connection” at a bar, according to Chaplin.

Jessica-Leigh Arends agrees: going out fulfills the need to socialize, but she wanted a way to do that “without the pressure of alcohol.” That’s why she’s a part of Sober Cedar Rapids.

According to Arends, socializing without alcohol is part of a growing trend.

“The sober-curious movement started in 2019 and really hit home after the pandemic,” Arends said.

A book called Sober Curious, published at the end of 2018, jumpstarted the movement. According to a survey from Nielsen IQ, 22% of consumers reported they were cutting back on drinking alcohol. 36% of respondents gave “lost interest in drinking” as their reason why.

So what about the holiday known for partying until midnight?

“A bar without alcohol or anything on a huge holiday that is very based around alcohol is hard,” Matthew Earhart, general manager of Unimpaired, a bar that serves nonalcoholic drinks and mocktails, said.

While many will have a traditional New Year’s Eve, Earhart said plenty are interested in a sober one, as well.

“I’ve had five or six phone calls this past week about New Year’s Eve with families asking if they could bring their kids in here,” Earhart said.

And the kids who will be at Unimpaired this NYE? Earhart wonders if they’ll contribute to the sober-curious trend, too.

“I’m kind of interested to see how it’s going to turn out in like 10 years,” Earhart said. “When those kids are actually going to start drinking, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, well, you guys drink on New Year’s Eve? I’ve never done that before. Like, my family’s been sober.’”