Participating in Dry January? Anchorage has more options than ever.

Some Anchorage businesses say they’re seeing increased demand for alcohol-free drinks and spaces.

On a recent night out in downtown Anchorage, trivia-goers sipped smoky negronis, hazy IPAs, and lemony concoctions with passion fruit seeds and blueberries. They threw back shots of ginger and turmeric, and ate soft pretzels paired with cheese. They ordered iced matcha drinks flavored with butterfly pea flowers, and drank seltzers with purported health benefits — all alcohol-free.

The no-booze pop-up event, hosted last week by Recover Alaska with trivia by Beth Klein with That Trivia Gal, was the first of a series of weekly events being held all month at K Street Market as a way to celebrate Dry January, generally pitched as a healthy reset to the new year.

“It’s penitence for the excesses of December,” said Anchorage resident Marta Mueller, who merrily sipped a blood orange-cardamom soda Thursday night while working though her trivia answer sheet.

“I’m going to use the word ‘wholesome,’ ” Mueller said of the event.

But for some, interest in these kinds of spaces went beyond Dry January. They said they view sober nights out as part of a larger trend happening both locally and nationally: a shift away from drinking — and a reckoning with the harms of excess alcohol consumption.

“I feel like a lot of social life in Anchorage, and in Alaska in general, focuses more on drinking,” said Elyssa Loughlin, who is in her late 20s and showed up at the Thursday night trivia at the urging of a friend. “I think part of maturing and unpacking things for me has been realizing my relationship with — and my family’s relationship with — alcohol, and finding ways that I can have fun without having to lean on that as a crutch.”

Market disruptions

Northern Hospitality Group, an Anchorage-based beverage company that owns 49th State Brewing Co., saw a slight decline in alcohol sales last year, but an overall increase in sales, according to CEO David McCarthy.

He said the company this year saw “a dramatic shift,” especially among younger Alaskans, who were purchasing non-alcoholic beverages — up 20% from the previous year.


Those numbers reflect a change from longstanding trends. Alaska has long had higher-than-average rates of substance misuse and addiction, and the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to have exacerbated the problem.

Between 2019 and 2021, the rate of deaths due to drinking nearly doubled in the state, and the number of Alaskans with severe liver disease rose sharply to well above the national average. In 2020, the leading cause of emergency department visitations by adults aged 18-64 was alcohol-related disorders.

While more recent state data on excess drinking was not yet available, anecdotally, locals in the industry say they’ve observed a shift in overall drinking habits and consumer practices over the last several years.

McCarthy said the trend is bigger than Alaska: Among the U.S. breweries with the largest growth in sales in 2022 was a company that sells nonalcoholic beer, Athletic Brewing Co., based in Connecticut.

“That was a market disrupter,” McCarthy said, adding that his company has seen a shift in people who are curious about more complex beverage options that are nonalcoholic and are more than just juice, Coke or soda water.

National polling shows a general trend of decreased alcohol consumption among young adults in the U.S. over the last several decades. Fewer Americans aged 18 to 34 reported being regular drinkers compared to a decade ago, and Gen. Z appears to be drinking less than millennials.

“I feel like a lot of people, especially during COVID, kind of leaned into drinking, and then out of drinking,” said Mac Tubbs, co-owner of Rage City Vintage, an arts co-op and retail shop that has been hosting alcohol-free community events in Spenard.

“People got a little bit of a better look at what that did, and how they wanted to live moving forward,” Tubbs said.

“We see people drinking less alcohol,” said McCarthy. “It’s a tough thing to say when you’re in the brewing industry. ... I think generationally, people are seeing a shift toward healthier lifestyles. Realistically, it’s a balance.”

‘Sober curious’

This is the second year Recover Alaska is hosting weekly Dry January events in Anchorage, after last year’s trivia nights took off, drawing a standing-room only crowd during its final week.

This year, the nonprofit is doing an even bigger Dry January: They’ll be hosting a series of live music and concerts on Thursday nights, plus their pop-up bar.

Interest in sober events seems to be growing, said Blaze Bell, a spokesperson for the nonprofit dedicated to reducing excess drinking and its harms.


“Being ‘sober curious’ is such a trend in the whole nation and world right now. And so a lot more people are asking and craving for these spaces where they can go hang out with their friends, without the pressure of having to drink,” Bell said.

Cortney Anderson came to last year’s pop-up sober bar and trivia nights, which were “super awesome,” she said. This year, she’s celebrating six years of sobriety, and said she welcomed the chance to go out without the night centered around drinking.

“Everyone is here for the same thing: just to have fun,” Anderson said.

Wes Brewington, who said he is also in recovery, said when he first quit drinking, the thought of being out in places where everyone was consuming alcohol was hard.

“It was like, I can’t go to any of the events that I used to,” he said. “Having events like this is important because it shows we can still have fun in recovery. And alcohol doesn’t have to be involved.”

Gathering places in Spenard and East Anchorage

On Thursday evening at Rage City Vintage in Spenard, co-owners Tubbs and Emma Hill and sat on a soft couch in the corner of their new lounge area, next to a self-serve drink bar where shoppers could sip tea and other nonalcoholic options.


They had spent the last few days rearranging furniture to create a larger lounge space in their clothing and art store that also acts as a community gathering spot — a place for tarot card readings and bracelet-making; home to art circles, low-key concerts and open mic nights.

“It’s a sober space, which also makes it an all-ages space, which is really important to me both as a recovering alcoholic, but really just as someone who loves the idea of having a space where young people can gather and feel like they can be themselves,” Hill said.

Hill and Tubbs said they view themselves as filling a gap in the community by offering an alternative to bars.

“There are plenty of places to drink in this town, and plenty of really fun places to drink in this town. What there’s not is plenty of places to go and feel very welcomed and normal as a sober individual who’s still very much craving community and gathering space,” Hill said.

“We’re really thankful to be able to provide a space where it’s just like a normal thing to have music and a little ‘drinky,’ and find a cool gift for a friend,” Tubbs said.

Across town, Cafecito Bonito in East Anchorage is also offering an all-ages spaces on Saturday and Sunday evenings.


Called Cielito, which translates to “little heaven” in Spanish, the lounge includes a special mocktail menu, tacos, live music and themed parties. At night, the coffee shop takes on a different feeling: The lights are lower and the music is faster-paced, said manager, barista and mixologist Moira Phyala.

Their drink menu includes “lots of lavender, fresh herbs; lots of different rims to keep things interesting,” said Phyala.

“Especially because there isn’t alcohol in it,” Phyala said. “We really try to mock that same feeling you get when you order a cocktail,” she said. “You know, not just juice in a cup, but really trying to elevate it.”

She said the response to the space has been positive, especially among older teens who don’t have many nightlife spaces to gather.

“Our main reception is that it’s nice to have a space that’s not a bar to hang out in, that’s still got good beverages and food where you can actually socialize and be part of a community,” she said.

Hill, with Rage City, said she’s definitely noticing a shift.

“I genuinely think there’s something happening right now, where people are at least giving themselves enough time to really, truly try out to see what their bodies and minds feel like without alcohol or with lot less of it,” she said.

“I just think that people are starting to pick up on, ‘oh, you can have fun without this. You can be social without this,’” she said.


Anchorage events and spaces for Dry January — and beyond

• Recover Alaska’s Dry January Thursday Nights Out are being held this month at K-Street Market in downtown Anchorage: Jan. 11 is a Skinny Raven run afterparty; Jan. 18 will be a house music party with a local DJ, and Jan. 25′s event is an Anchorage Folk Festival concert with local musicians — with featured drinks from Johnny’s Produce, That Feeling Co. and La Bodega. All events are at 6 p.m. at 718 K Street.

Cielito Mocktail Lounge in East Anchorage is open most Saturday and Sunday nights year-round at Cafecito Bonito, from 5 p.m. to midnight, serving tacos and a rotating list of mocktails, at 6307 DeBarr Road.

Rage City Vintage in Spenard is open daily from 12 to 7 p.m. The shop and gathering space sells local and vintage art and clothes, and hosts events and shows. For a list of all-ages events in January and beyond, visit their website or their shop at 3400 Spenard Road.

Correction: An earlier version of this article included incorrect opening hours and days for Rage City Vintage. Rage City is open every day of the week, not closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and is open 12 to 7 p.m.

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Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at