The last time dry bars could be described as being in vogue, we had a Queen Empress on the throne and men still wore stove pipe hats. And yet, bang in the middle of London’s most trendy borough, a new one is set to open this weekend.
Called Redemption, it harks back to the (in)glorious days of the late 19th century, when The British Workmen’s Public Houses served the God-fearing, flat-cap-wearers of the north aerated milk and tea, instead of beer and wine.
Given that this latest incarnation is housed on top of Trendy Netil House in London Fields – not a place known as a magnet for the devout – it is unsurprisingly devoid of an overhanging temperance message.
As its owner, Catherine Salway, makes clear – she only wants it to be a temple of fun and good health. “People are generally getting healthier and yet when we socialise, we have this habit of drinking too much. I think lots of Londoners feel alcohol is omnipresent and regret that, as it doesn’t sit well with their otherwise healthy lifestyles.”
Certainly she appears to have a point. Dry bars are, somewhat inconceivably, a growing trend. Most are run by addiction-recovery charities and are features of the nightlife in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Liverpool (the latter’s bar, The Brink, had a brief few minutes of fame when it created a smoothie for the Duchess of Cambridge to imbibe).
At Netil House, however, it will be a smarter affair, with mocktails, an outdoor terrace and DJs throughout the summer. Whether an alcohol-free negroni will prove enough of an attraction for heavy-drinking east Londoners remains to be seen – but if it means at least a few people avoid a Saturday morning hangover, it can’t be that bad a thing.