GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A national trend has made its way to Grand Rapids, with more and more businesses catering to a “sober-curious” crowd.

Lotus Brew Coffee and Dry Bar on the city’s northeast side calls its bar an alternative place to drink with friends.

“There really isn’t any space for folks who may be nonalcoholic by choice” or due to “addiction, medically or for whatever reason,” owner Max Freeman said.

The wellness community space offers a range of coffees and teas and a wide variety of mocktails.

At the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, the Alt City Beverage Company is set to open the city’s first nonalcoholic liquor shop later this year.

The menu at Alt City Beverage Company at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. (October 2022)
The menu at Alt City Beverage Company at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

“A sober-curious lifestyle has really normalized the fact that you don’t have the expectation to participate in a celebration with a glass of wine or a beer in your hand,” said Dr. Colleen Lane, director of addiction medicine at Spectrum Health.

The term “sober-curious” loosely means people who are not struggling with substance disorders but still participate in either more mindful and reduced drinking habits or those who abstain entirely.

“Coming out of the pandemic, there’s been an interesting cultural phenomenon, especially among young people, who were either observing or participating in (previous binge drinking) behavior have said, ‘Hey, let’s try to do something different,’” Lane said.

Alcohol sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. Some studies found nearly a 20% increase in sales from March to September 2020. Physicians nationwide saw the effects of increased drinking. Many hospitals, like Spectrum, have seen an increase in patients in the addiction medicine specialty since the start of the pandemic. High blood pressure, weight gain, liver disease are among many medical problems that stem from excessive drinking.

Lane said companies like Lotus and Alt City have helped her clients embrace healthier lifestyles while still being social.

“With alcohol especially, we know that people who limit their alcohol intake tend to have better blood pressures, less cardiovascular disease,” she said.