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New Zealand’s First Alcohol-Free Bar Had to Close Because No One Came

An Auckland dry bar serving alcohol-free beer, wine, and mocktails has been forced to close just five weeks after opening. “No one showed up," said owner Grady Elliott.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user David Lichterman

Most of us will have endured the kind of existential crisis-inducing hangover that sees us swear off all forms of alcohol and commit to a zen, intoxicant-free existence stimulated only by the natural highs of fresh air and Kundalini yoga. Or something.

But once the Berocca starts to kick in and you've spent a sufficient amount of time in horizontal-binge-watch mode, actually, maybe a quick pint wouldn't be so bad. Before you know it, you're getting the next round in and someone's suggesting karaoke. Why break the liver-bashing habits of a lifetime, eh?


Such weak-willed tendencies have proved to be the downfall of a New Zealand hotelier, who was forced to close his alcohol-free bar this week after failing to attract enough customers.

READ MORE: London's New 'Alcohol-Free' Cocktail Bar Is Not a Bar

Rather optimistically in a country renowned for its wine output, Grady Elliott opened New Zealand's first booze-free bar in Auckland last month, hoping to attract customers leaving the nearby nightclubs at closing time.

In hindsight, this may have been his initial misstep. There can't be many revellers who emerge from five hours of tequila shots and "Uptown Funk" remixes with both the willpower and cognitive ability to choose a glass of orange juice over a lamb doner.

But at the time, Elliott was confident in his venture and with an estimated one in ten New Zealanders suffering from alcoholism, perhaps a dry bar was what the city needed.

"We are getting mixed reactions, a lot of people are saying it sounds good and a lot of people are saying, 'What are you thinking?' But we think it is worth a punt," he told the New Zealand Herald in July.

Tap Bar (short for "The After Party"—because nothing wards off 4 AM comedowns like an overpriced Shirley Temple) charged a $15 (NZD) entry fee and served an array of booze-free wine, beer, and mocktails. It also stayed open until 8 AM on Sunday mornings, something Elliot said would allow patrons to "head straight to church."


Unsurprisingly, the thought of going directly from tipsily telling a random girl in the toilets how great her nail varnish looks to sharing a pew with your grandma didn't really do it for Auckland's bar hoppers and this week, Tap Bar closed its doors, just five weeks after opening. According to the New Zealand Herald, the establishment did see a few customers, but they mainly drank water and little cash was actually taken.

"We gave it a shot and Auckland drinking culture just didn't tie in with the dry bar. No one showed up," Elliott told the newspaper.

READ MORE: Recovering Alcoholics Shouldn't Drink Kombucha

And, like a fresher chugging a dirty pint to the peer pressure chorus of "Down it! Down it! Down it!", Elliott says he will now be relaunching Tap Bar as your standard, booze-slinging joint.

"We took it by the balls and gave it a punt. We knew it could have gone either way and we were prepared for it," he told the New Zealand Herald.

As London sees the opening of a new alcohol-free cocktail bar (complete with guilt-free nibbles!) and California's beer supply dries up, at least the citizens of Auckland are guarding their right to a weekend blowout.