Dry January: Non-alcoholic beverage scene on the uptick in Downtown Dayton

Exploring the trend that’s on the rise.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

The trend to give up alcohol for the first month of the year is well underway with restaurants and bars in downtown Dayton offering non-alcoholic beverages for guests.

“Dry January started in 2013 with 4,000 people,” according to Alcohol Change UK’s website. “Now in its 10th year it’s come a long way since then, with over 130,000 taking part in 2022.”

According to its website, Alcohol Change UK is a British charity working for a society that is free from the harm caused by alcohol.

“We are not anti-alcohol; we are for alcohol change,” the website said. “We are for a future in which people drink as a conscious choice, not a default; where the issues which lead to alcohol problems — like poverty, mental health issues, homelessness — are addressed; where those of us who drink too much, and our loved ones, have access to high-quality support whenever we need it, without shame or stigma.”

Many people throughout the U.S. take part in this initiative.

“People will be shocked by how good they feel after 31 days of no alcohol,” said Colleen Oakes, manager of the Montgomery County Prevention Coalition. “Those participating in Dry January can expect to feel better rested, happier and more energetic, and maybe even a few pounds lighter.”

She said what may be most important is the social aspect.

“People may be afraid of how to act in a social setting without alcohol and be concerned that their peers will judge them for not drinking,” Oakes said. “What many people find is that this isn’t a big deal. You can still be in social situations without having a drink in your hand and most people won’t mention it. Once an individual has this experience, it’s easier to be in control for the rest of the year.”

Katie Mae Venable, a bar manager at Lily’s Dayton, located at 329 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District, has been sober for two-and-a-half years.

“I decided that I just wanted a better life for myself,” Venable said. “Starting out I was just going to take a break from alcohol and then I just liked how much better I felt, how much better my life was without it and I just decided I didn’t want to go back.”

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Venable said it is still hard to maintain sobriety, especially being surrounded by alcohol all the time, but non-alcoholic beverages help.

The Fairborn native was aware of non-alcoholic beverages like Shirley Temples but was introduced to more possibilities when joining Lily’s Dayton.

“They have so many juices and flavors and you can make anything,” Venable said. “You don’t really need alcohol for a cocktail.”

Emily Mendenhall, owner of Lily’s Dayton and a member of the Oregon District Business Association, said her restaurant is going into its 10th year in business and for the first several years offered juices and sodas as the only non-alcoholic beverage options. She explained it wasn’t until a managers meeting in 2019 that her team decided to introduce additional options.

“I never intentionally was overlooking it,” Mendenhall said. “It just wasn’t as high on my radar.”

She said over the last two to three years the non-alcoholic beverage scene has been on the “up.”

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

“You just see more and more people wanting to be a little more attentive and attuned to their drinking,” Mendenhall said.

Lauren Gay, wine director of Sueño and Tender Mercy, located at 607 E. Third St. in Dayton, said she thinks people created a habit of overindulging during the pandemic and are now trying to work on healthier lifestyle habits.

“A (non-alcoholic) beer or cocktail is a great way to feel a part of an experience without overindulging,” Gay said. “Even just alternating a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks is a great way to pace yourself during a night out.”

Lily’s Dayton, Sueño, Tender Mercy and several other downtown Dayton bars and restaurants offer a variety of non-alcoholic cocktails.

“We put just as much love, care and attention into our non-alcoholic drinks as our alcoholic ones,” Gay said. “They stand alone in their own category and are just as satisfying as an alcoholic cocktail. They aren’t inferior or subpar at all.”

“It’s not an afterthought,” Mendenhall added.

Gay said ingredients like orgeat, rose water, cinnamon syrup, tamari, etc. creates cocktails with complexity and depth of flavor. A favorite non-alcoholic beverage at Sueño is Horchata, a house-made drink made from rice, evaporated milk, cinnamon and spices.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Mendenhall said a popular non-alcoholic beverage at Lily’s Dayton is the sparkling cranberry-ginger white tea.

“At Lily’s, we don’t currently stock any specific non-alcoholic spirits,” she said. “But it’s certainly our plan in 2023 to keep expanding that.”

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic spirit, the Bottle Shop by Ghostlight has many options. From non-alcoholic spirits such as whiskey, bourbon or gin to a variety of champagne alternativities and non-alcoholic beers and wines, guests can find something new to sip or mix.

The Bottle Shop by Ghostlight, located inside the coffee shop at 1201 Wayne Ave., has been open for just over a year, said owner Shane Anderson.

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

“To the best of our knowledge, we are the first and only in Ohio,” Anderson said.

He explained they started selling non-alcoholic bottles during the pandemic when there was news of people overindulging at home. In addition, he said for years he thought there needed to be more adventurous adult beverages containing no alcohol.

“Somebody that chooses not to drink or can’t drink for some reason whether it’s medical, religious or choice, a lot of times I felt like they didn’t have a lot of options in social settings,” Anderson said.

The coffee shop features a seasonal non-alcoholic cocktail menu where guests can taste and experience what the bottle shop has to offer.

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

Anderson said as he plans for his new adventure at the Dayton Arcade, Gather by Ghostlight, he is keeping inclusivity at the forefront of menu design.

“We spend a lot of time putting that thought into our plan for Gather of making sure that no matter who comes in at whatever time of the day there’s a good, quality beverage for them,” Anderson said.

Gather by Ghostlight is expected to open in the Arcade’s Fourth St. building on the first floor in late quarter one of 2023, confirmed Megan Dunn Peters, arcade community manager for Cross Street Partners.

If you’re participating in Dry January, Oakes offered several tips to help you stay on track:

  • Participate in Dry January with a friend to help keep each other accountable and make those challenging social situations easier.
  • Remove yourself from difficult situations with a lot of drinking. If a friend invites you for drinks after work, ask if you can meet at a coffee shop or go for a walk instead.

Oakes added that Dry January is also a time to experience and find your new favorite non-alcoholic beverage.

“Many of our local businesses offer phenomenal craft drinks on their non-alcoholic menu,” Oakes said.

Gay and Mendenhall encouraged guests to give their bartenders a little direction into their favorite flavor profiles and they would be more than happy to make something special.

“Our bartenders are really, really talented,” Gay said. “They’re essentially chefs behind the bar. They learn the top 100 most popular classic cocktail recipes, so they have this whole cache of information in their back pocket. They also really love the ability to play around and experiment and come up with things on the fly.”

“Hospitality is inherently about giving people this space to socialize and come together,” Mendenhall added. “You want to make sure you have things for people of all different backgrounds and all different parts of their life.”

For individuals experiencing substance use or mental health disorders, the Montgomery County ADAMHS Board offers the LocalHelpNow app, which includes a list of treatment and prevention resources.

Oakes said alcohol addiction is diagnosed by a substance use disorder professional. She explained if an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, is unable to stop drinking, or becomes secretive or in denial about their alcohol use, it may be time to seek additional support.


A sampling of establishments offering non-alcoholic options:

The Bottle Shop by Ghostlight, 1201 Wayne Ave., Dayton (located inside the coffee shop), 937-985-2633, www.ghostlightcoffee.com

Lily’s Dayton, 329 E. Fifth St., Dayton, 937-723-7637, www.lilysdayton.com

Sueño, 607 E. Third St., Dayton, 937-453-0008, www.suenodyt.com

Tender Mercy, 607 E. Third St. in Dayton (lower level), 937-453-007, www.tendermercy.com

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