Sober Bar Aims for a Different Kind of Buzz in Lancaster, PA

People having fun in a bar without alcohol? The concept might seem as unfamiliar as fish swimming in a bowl without water—and perhaps as uncomfortable too, especially for a person in recovery from substance abuse. But Lancaster, PA’s Kyle Kuehn is working hard to change that perception. He’s spearheading a movement to promote fun late-night social options in a culture that too often glamorizes a partying lifestyle. While struggling to overcome his own alcohol abuse, Kuehn was inspired to create an alcohol-free environment—a sober bar—where the goal is to have fun and be social–not to get buzzed, high, or wasted. “In the evening, all the bars and substance-promoting venues have a monopoly on nightlife. After 10 p.m. you have to be strong enough if you want to stay sober,” Kuehn says. Kuehn’s initiative has two components: Lights Out Relying on his decade-plus experience in the restaurant and bar industry, the founder is launching Lights Out, the first sober bar in Lancaster.  The community venue is slated to open in August and will share space with The Rabbit & the Dragonfly, a downtown Lancaster cafe and book store. Lights Out will open in late evening, after the café closes for the day. It will offer food, non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainment.

“My goal is to help people overcome addiction, and prevent future generations from turning to substances by providing a late night community place. To remind each other that the ‘buzz’ is not from the product, but from one another.

Kuehn, who has been sober for more than a year, says Lights Out hours will run until 2 or 3 a.m. This will make the dry bar available to people who have been drinking at area bars or clubs and want a place to get sober before heading home. He adds, “It’s also an opportunity to start the recovery conversation early with people who might need it.” Sober Bars Sober Bars is an organization that promotes sober living in a fun, social environment. Since 2015, the group has hosted regular events to raise awareness and money. For example, last fall it held Console Con, a video game-themed event with music, food, dancing, and non-alcoholic beverages. Other popular sober events have included the Brawny Man Challenge, an arm wrestling tournament in which the loser’s beard was shaved, and Not Your Demographic, a music festival to promote sobriety. The group’s sober fun events have appealed to a broad range of audiences. Kuehn notes that while many attendees are in substance abuse recovery, others include people under age 21, pregnant women, and people who abstain for religious or personal reasons. What’s Next for Lights Out & Sober Bars? In addition to the official Lights Out opening in August, Kuehn will continue to create awareness and promote substance-free fun. Upcoming events include supporting the Lancaster County Recovery Alliance’s 3rd Annual Recovery Day & Walk with the Lancaster Barnstormers at Clipper Magazine Stadium on Sunday, August 28, 2016. More in-the-works events include concerts, a 5K run, and a second Console Con. The Sober Bars team will also launch a crowdfunding campaign later this spring to help fund the group’s mission. Get up-to-date sober entertainment and Lights Out info by following Sober Bar’s Facebook Page.