Things to Do in Denver When You’re Sober
If Covid taught us anything, it taught us that we need each other. Two at a time, three at a time, ten at a time, a hundred. Just so long as someone else is present and accounted for. That goes double for people in recovery. So it’s with great excitement that we sing the praise of a sober hangout called Awake.
Located in Denver’s booming Jefferson Park neighborhood, Awake is the bright idea of Billy and Christy Wynne. We first spread the word about Awake back in November. Back then though we only knew that the Wynnes had been looking for a place that fit their newly sober lifestyle and when one didn’t surface they decided to open a sober hangout of their own. Now that we know how cool they are, we decided to dig a little deeper into their story.
Awake ain’t your average sober hangout though (if there even is such a thing). As we mentioned before, it’s located in what’s perhaps Denver’s best-situated neighborhood, where a beautiful urban park cores a hodge-podge of funky dwellings that reach all the way back to the 19th century. Then there’s the rad fact that the Wynnes have teamed with some of the Mile High City’s most esteemed purveyors of drinkables and edibles, which provides a locally-sourced taste to the proceedings. And because folks are now as concerned with what they imbibe as with where their money goes, Awake dedicates a portion of its proceeds to a variety of local charities (though to be fair they also do so simply because it’s the right thing to do).
Most impressive are the views, and not just around the neighborhood either. Sure those views are pretty spectacular. After all, they literally take in Elitch Gardens Theme Park, The Children’s Museum, Pepsi Center, the Downtown Aquarium and other attractions emanating from Downtown Denver’s Central Platte Valley. No, we mean the Wynne’s views, which are also pretty spectacular. They’re also as awake as the name of their venture.
See, unlike most sober folks, the Wynnes were driven to sobriety by desire rather than necessity. Yes, they’d been drinking a tad too much while on excursion in France. They’d even admitted as much to The Denver Post‘s Josie Sexton. But there were none of the harrowing rock bottoms that accompany so many sober journeys. This was instead merely a desire to find a Denver-centric way to bask in the crisp, clean air of sobriety.
That in no way diminishes the Wynnes’ sober bona fides, of course. Nor does it detract from their dedication to recovery — theirs, as well as others. It doesn’t diminish their dedication to the recovery community either — the who, what, where and when, as well as the why. A fact that’s clearly evidenced in Awake.
In other words, Awake is the Wynnes own unique way of fighting the good fight, day in and day out. It’s also their own unique way of making sure the good fighters stay properly — and deliciously — fueled!
Healing Properties asked Billy Wynne to answer a few more questions regarding Awake — here’s what the good guy had to answer.
Billy Wynne Talks Awake
Congratulations on Awake! Is this the proverbial dream come true?
Thank you very much. In a way, yes, this is definitely a dream come true. It’s really an honor and privilege to create a welcoming space for people who choose not to drink. We’re very proud to be a part of the movement to normalize that choice and celebrate the alcohol-free life.
Opening a business is a milestone in itself; opening up a business amidst a pandemic is downright megalithic! What made you decide to proceed full speed and plow right through Covid?
We felt that the alcohol-free bar concept was an idea whose time had come. We wanted to stay ahead of the curve while helping to energize the sober conscious movement, so we forged ahead.
What were the biggest advantages of that decision?
The delay in opening the internal space afforded us extra time to build out our collection of alcohol-free beverages while we honed our coffee program. Looking back, I don’t think we would have been ready to open everything in November 2020, which is when we started selling coffee out of the window due to COVID.
All of the obvious ones, especially the chilling effect COVID has on customer volume. That has improved some, of course, but we think there’s still a considerable number of customers who aren’t yet ready to go out like they otherwise would.
Covid aside, did this end up being the right time?
Awake is first and foremost a passion project for us. The timing was driven by inspiration for the concept and the broader movement that we’re a part of. We wanted to move forward however and whenever we could.
How do you feel now that your doors are open?
We feel great. The response from the Denver community has been amazing. We hear from people every day about how Awake has opened new doors for them to socialize and relax, to support their recovery, or otherwise give them a safe and inclusive space. It’s incredibly heartwarming and inspiring. Needless to say, it’s a ton of work, but it’s easily worthwhile.
We bet. What brands of coffee folks find when they stroll through Awake’s open and inviting doors?
Queen City is our roaster. Not only do they make delicious coffee beans, they share our mission to serve the community and deliver the highest quality, sustainably-sourced products. We also offer fresh baked goods from Aspen Baking, milk products from Morning Fresh Dairy, Bhakti Chai, Mame’s Burritos, Happy Leaf Kombucha and so on. These are all Colorado companies and we’re very proud to partner with them.
And the non-alcoholic drinkables?
We have the largest collection of alcohol-free beverages of any bar in the country and any bottle shop in Colorado. We love our brewers, including Gruvi and Ceria, who are both local and family-owned, as well as Surreal from Portland, Maine, Athletic from Connecticut and Wellbeing from St. Louis. Our wines come from California to New Zealand and our spirits from every pocket of the globe. Lyre’s from Australia is a staple because they have a wide array of spirits that help us build sophisticated zero proof cocktails. Spiritless 74 is our champion Kentucky Bourbon, Monday Gin is our workhorse gin, and Ritual delivers our tequila kick. These three are all made in the U.S.
There are too many others to name, so we welcome customers to check out our bottle shop menu online or come into the store and browse our display. We’re going to have extra inventory and plenty of sales and discounts throughout Sober October and Dry January.
Was connecting with local purveyors part of Awake’s original game plan?
Will Awake also have its own slate of recovery-friendly events/evenings?
We welcome and include everyone in our community in all of our events. We have live music and special events like open mics and drag shows every week. And we consider our whole being to be recovery-friendly. In fact, we’ve had various recovery groups meet up at Awake since we opened.
How tied-in are you with the local recovery community anyway?
We are very close to the recovery community in Denver. We’ve bartended open houses at recovery centers and contributed to a wide array of charities that support people on the path. We have employees and entertainer-partners in recovery and are deepening those bonds all the time.
Do you see an evident increase in the number of recovery groups and participants in and around Denver?
I couldn’t say but I do hear and believe that Awake is helping to normalize alcohol-free living, whether for people entering recovery or making the choice for other reasons.
Have you a single instance that helps illustrate this increasing acceptance?
One image I’ll never forget is of a guest who is in recovery, shortly after we opened, standing in front of our bar with an ear-to-ear grin on his face and tears streaming from his eyes. He shared with us that he never thought a place like Awake was possible; where he could feel welcome in a joyful community with the same positive elements and flavors of a bar but without the alcohol.