A new club just opened in Stockholm (where I'm from), but I don't really wanna go. You see, it's called Sober, and as you can guess, to get in you have to be absolutely sober. It's a concept that I find confusing and slightly awk, so I called up the guy behind it—a stand-up comedian named Mårten Andersson—to see if he could convince me to give Sober a try.
VICE: Hi, Mårten. Why are you opening a club where alcohol is prohibited?
Mårten Andersson: Well, hello there. Swedes need to wake up and stop glorifying booze in the way we do. Life is too short for us to be wasted all the time. I want to inspire people and show them that you can have a bloody great time without alcohol. I want to offer an alternative to just getting hammered.
How will you control alcohol consumption in your club?
We will have a breathalyzer at the door. If you’re slightly drunk you will have to take a walk around the block. No one gets in if the machine reacts to their breath.
And if you bust someone drunk inside?
Then we will have to throw them out.
Don’t you think people will be doing drugs instead?
That’s something we have to be really careful about. We will have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of intoxication.
What will you offer your guests to make up for the lack of alcohol?
A great nightclub with amazing DJs, virgin drinks made with love, and hopefully an exciting atmosphere. It will be just like any club in Berlin, London, or Ibiza—minus the drunks.
I heard you had to change venue because you sold too many tickets for the opening party.
Yes, that was great! We started setting up with a smaller venue in mind to keep things chill and low-key, but then everyone went crazy and we sold 300 tickets in just a few days. So now we're going to have two dance floors—one that will be playing pop music for the people who are not as into deep tech and deep house as I am, and one that will only be playing electronic music.
You’ve been talking to the Swedish media about your crazy drinking and partying days a lot. I take it that now you’re sober?
Yeah, I’ve had enough. I've been sober for six months. It’s great—I’ve never felt better. I’m so much calmer these days. I feel better, I look better, and my self-esteem has never been this high. I’m proud of myself in a way I’ve never been before.
Yeah, the decisions I make now and the feelings I am feeling take place in the present—there's no fogginess. Before, I could—let's say—convince myself that I was in love with a girl I met at a club, but once the buzz from the alcohol faded, I'd forget all about it. If I got the same feelings now, I’d know they’re real.
Isn't your sobriety a PR move to get a spin on your club concept?
No, not at all—this is as true as it gets. I felt really shitty before and anxious all the time. I partied too much and too often, so I decided to be sober for 60 days. In the beginning, it was thanks to my solo show. The show is about being true to yourself, so I really couldn’t stand on stage trying to inspire people with a good conscience if I just kept partying. What I want to achieve with Sober is to enlighten people about getting the best out of clubbing.
Won't the club just turn into a huge AA meeting?
No. I think there will be a mix of the same old club rats, sober alcoholics, the curious crowd, club kids, and randoms. A weird but fantastic blend of different people.
The other day a lady walked up to me and asked whether she was too old to come party at the club. She was 65. Later the same day, some hipster club kids said they were curious and wanted to come and check how they will act and dance without drugs or alcohol in their systems. As if they’ve never ever been sober.
Maybe they haven’t.
Oh, by the way, just when I got on the train today I saw this totally stupid campaign for IOGT-NTO [Sweden’s biggest sobriety organization]. ”Alcohol disturbs” was their motto—it’s a such a fucking old-fashioned way of thinking, it’s embarrassing. I don’t want to tell people not to drink; I just want to open people's minds and get them to start reflecting on why they are drinking. Get high on life instead of substances or alcohol.
”Alcohol disturbs”? I mean, come on! To come up with a campaign like that you have to be really stupid. That particular person could actually use a drink.
Is this whole thing a social experiment, then?
It will certainly be interesting. I’m convinced that people will have fun, but I am also convinced that some people will feel shitty when they realize how alcohol runs their lives. They might just stand awkwardly on the side, without getting the courage to talk or dance with new people. But then, at least, I’ve planted a seed in their minds, and maybe they will evaluate their relationship with alcohol.
Do you think people will hit on one another more, or less?
Less in the beginning, but after a while I think people will bring down their guard and feel comfortable enough to flirt. There might be fewer cheesy one-liners and maybe even fewer one-night stands.
Maybe it will generate more couples rather then sporadic fucks.
If the non-sober Mårten hit on me, how would he try to pick me up?
I wouldn’t have walked up to you. I would have been looking at you from a distance while trying to look my best. Seeking your attention. And then if you didn’t walk up to me I wouldn’t have bothered to do so myself. I’d just pick a new girl to stare at and try to get in bed with.
And if you were to hit on me now—while sober in Sober—how would you go about that?
I would walk up to you and compliment you or ask your name. My main focus isn't getting in girls’ pants anymore. My focus now is to get in people's heads and to get to know them.
Thanks for the chat, Mårten, and good luck with the club.
Sober opens at Kägelbanan in Stockholm on September 26. Find out more about it here.
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Topics: AA, sober, i hope i never get sober, Stockholm, club, sober clubbing, Mårten Andersson, Swedes are weird, standup comedians who own clubs, glorifying booze, not drinking, quitting alcohol, sobriety, getting clean, straightedge, not being drunk, people who don't drink, Clubs with no drinking, sober people