Booze

Denver's First Sober Bar Launches National Franchising Program

Denver's First Sober Bar Launches National Franchising Program
Jaclyn Church
In May 2021, Awake opened its doors at 2240 North Clay Street, becoming Denver’s first completely alcohol-free bar. The idea of a thoughtful space without booze not only intrigued the Colorado community, but the entire country — which is why Awake has announced plans to franchise nationwide.

By day, Awake is a craft coffee shop serving Queen City Coffee along with baked goods and locally made burritos from Dis Burrito. But by afternoon, the space is a completely alcohol-free bar serving a wide variety of carefully curated mocktails and alcohol-free wine and beer.

“It’s been amazing,” says Billy Wynne, who owns Awake with his wife, Christy. Wynne notes that even before opening, there was an outpouring of support, gratitude and enthusiasm for this type of alcohol-free space. The bar opened its doors on a Saturday last May, and Wynne didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, Awake was jam-packed that first night, and interest hasn’t slowed down. Since opening, its hours have expanded to accommodate the crowds: Initially open for bar service Thursday through Saturday, it’s now open Tuesday through Sunday.

The most common feedback Wynne hears is from customers who haven’t drank alcohol in a few years and haven’t had a place like this to socialize with friends. “They’re amazed at the breadth of our menu,” he adds. The extensive selection offers a variety of non-alcoholic cocktails that includes both inventive twists on classics and alcohol-free beer, wine, spirits (which are available in flights to sample), cordials and aperitifs.
Awake owners Billy and Christy Wynne. - AWAKE
Awake owners Billy and Christy Wynne.
Awake
As with a traditional bar, the back is lined with an extensive collection of bottles. “I think people don’t know that that type of thing is possible in the alcohol-free space,” Wynne notes.

Experimentation goes into crafting the thoughtful cocktails, like the Awake 75, an alcohol-free version of a French 75 made with Monday Gin, lemon juice, elderflower and Fre Sparkling Rosé. Some other favorites are the Spicy Margarita and Love Potion No. 9, an herb-forward drink. Many customers come in looking for something unique, but others want an alcohol-free classic like the Manhattan, Aperol Spritz, Rum & Coke, Sangria, Gin & Tonic and Wynne’s favorite, the New Fashioned, made with Kentucky 74 and aromatic bitters with an orange twist garnish. All Awake drinks are less than 0.5 percent ABV.

Seasonal cocktails are also a popular choice, with those that do particularly well becoming a mainstay on the menu. Winter mocktails include the Gingerbread Nog, made with vegan eggnog and ginger snaps.

A bottle-shop component in Awake allows guests to purchase a non-alcoholic ingredient to experiment with on their own. “People come in, like what they had and want to make it at home,” Wynne explains. Delivery is also offered within the Denver area, and the bottle shop is open all day.
click to enlarge Awake serves a variety of booze-free beverages. - HESTER DROOG
Awake serves a variety of booze-free beverages.
Hester Droog
The food selection is simple, consisting of hummus, charcuterie, sweets and sandwiches. “Gourmet grilled cheese is our staple,” Wynne says.

And now the Wynnes have announced a new franchising program, giving aspiring business owners the chance to open an alcohol-free Awake bar anywhere in the country. The motive to expand came when a customer’s TikTok of Awake went viral, garnering more than 2.5 million views — and leading to an influx of emails from people interested in franchising opportunities.

While there are no confirmed locations at this point, Wynne is eager to work with those who are inspired by Awake’s brand and mission to create an alcohol-free safe space. “We believe we can learn from and grow with our franchisees; it’s not a one-way street,” he says.

Awake is located at 2240 North Clay Street and is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, including details on franchising opportunities, visit awakedenver.com.
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Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering craft beer, food and travel. For Westword, she explores vegan dining and the state's artisan beverages, such as cider and mead.