Three weeks into Dry January and both bars and restaurants around the Okanagan are busy making non-alcoholic drinks for their customers.
Riley Strother, the head bartender at Kelowna's Kettle River Brewing, says his craft beer establishment has quickly gone from offering two or three non-alcoholic taps, to a jaw-dropping 17 options, noticing a big rise in Dry January sales.
"Normally we offer only two or three non-alcoholic beers with about 10 or so beer sales a week, if that. We were just looking at the numbers for Dry January, and we’ve already sold 230 non-alcoholic beers [as of Jan. 20]," explained Strother.
Strother says he’s had customers tell him that if the non-alcoholic beers stay on tap, they'll keep coming in.
“We’ve gone from having three non-alcoholic beers to 17 now available. That’s specifically for this month, but we will probably be keeping some of these on tap moving forward because it’s brought in some more customers," he said. "We will probably keep about seven or eight options available."
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recently dropped the weekly alcohol consumption recommendation from 15 drinks a week down to two, with research backing the fact that too much alcohol can lead to the development of several types of cancer.
When asked if this should impact people's decisions to drink in the future, Strother had this to say:
“I think it will probably have an initial impact on some people, but for the most part, I think people will go back to their old habits. I think it might have a bigger impact on future generations down the road, kind of like smoking.”
Dry January sales are up in Kelowna, but according to the bar manager of Freddy's Brew Pub, Don McLachlan, people just don't drink like they used to.
“Over the years, when people go out, they don’t drink as much as they used to. People’s drinking habits have changed. With the cost of it, people being more aware of having to be responsible, people tend to drink less. Gone are the days where people would go out and have six or seven drinks," he explained.
“I think it’s a personal choice. Some people handle their liquor better than others. There are health risks with drinking, but it’s also something that’s been ingrained in our culture for thousands of years. I think two is a bit light, especially as I run a business, I mean, we have a brewery here. I think they’re being a little cautious with that number.”
While people are starting to become more aware of the dangers of drinking, Strother thinks people may start to become more selective with when and how they decide to consume alcohol.
“I think it could either stick around, but some people already do Sober October. My mom didn’t drink all of November, so I think people will pick and choose the months they want to take a break. The January thing might not stick around as the one month people don’t drink. You might see it become more spread out throughout the year.”