Umbrella Dry Bar plans to enter the Raleigh bar scene with an exclusively zero-proof menu in a hip downtown setting. Umbrella’s founder, Meg Paradise, wanted to bring a social environment that celebrates an alcohol-free lifestyle to Raleigh. As a busy mom, Paradise took an interest in the sober lifestyle to remain energized for herself and her children.
"It was a personal choice and experiment for me [to stop drinking alcohol]," Paradise said. "I felt like I couldn't keep up and do all these things while drinking. … I just feel so much more clear-headed now."
Paradise's main goal for Umbrella is to create a space where individuals in recovery and those who want a night off from alcohol can mingle comfortably.
"We're very cognizant and conscious of those who are in recovery, and we'll make this a safe space for anyone who feels they fit into that category," Paradise said. "I want to make [Umbrella] feel normal and completely comfortable for someone who has been in recovery for a week or for 10 years."
Raleigh bars have supported the alcohol-free environment that Umbrella plans to bring to the city. Killjoy, a cocktail bar in downtown Raleigh, recently partnered with Umbrella for a successful Dry January mocktail event.
"We had 150 people come to the event on a rainy Tuesday night in January," Paradise said. "I definitely stopped and was crying for a second. … It was real bartenders making our Umbrella drinks in real glasses — it was so amazing."
The demand for Umbrella is unsurprising given the rising popularity of the “sober curious” movement. BBC and The Drum report that Generation Z and millennials are more health-conscious and respectful of an individual's decision not to drink.
"I've found that the younger and younger it goes back, the less interest there seems to be in drinking," Paradise said. "There's probably a bigger focus on health and wellness and what goes into your body [with younger generations]."
Torie Gehlmeyer, a mixologist for Umbrella and zero-proof class instructor, crafted a chic, health-minded sipping menu that won't make you miss your regular cocktail.
"Mocktails and herbal elixirs and tonics are the foundation of what we are drinking," Gehlmeyer said. "[Elixirs] started for our health and diverted into recreation."
Gehlmeyer is an herbalist and utilizes her herbalism knowledge to craft revitalizing mocktail recipes.
"I've studied herbalism, which gives me the ability to have more purposeful drinks," Gehlmeyer said. "[Umbrella] is set apart because everything is formulated with intention."
Umbrella currently operates through pop-up events and intends to open its storefront this year. They have a crowdfunding campaign for those looking to invest in the business.
"Our investment campaign is a community campaign and revenue share, which I think is really cool," Paradise said. "$100 is the minimum to invest, and you get paid back at a 2.0 return. Our investors are extremely helpful because they give us cash flow to secure the location. … There are also perks of some free drinks in addition to that."
To stay updated on Umbrella's happenings, follow its Instagram and Facebook pages. Check out its website to view the event calendar and browse its zero-proof bottle shop.
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