Although British social life has centered around pubs and bars for centuries, a bar in Liverpool, England, is hoping to prove that anyone who thinks alcohol-free bars can't work in boozy Britain is all wet.
The Brink has been open since the end of September, and manager Carl Alderdice said that while Liverpool has a lot of cafes, there is a distinction between those and his establishment.
"The difference is that we actively say we're a dry bar," he told The Guardian.
Alderdice, who has years of experience running traditional bars, was hired as a consultant by Action On Addiction, a charity that wanted to curb a sad trend in Liverpool -- the city has the highest level of hospital admissions in Britain linked to alcohol, according to a study by John Moores University.
Rather than offer the atmosphere of a coffeehouse, The Brink goes for the same vibe as a boozy bar, except the barkeeps make a variety of virgin versions of traditional alcoholic cocktails.
And since many of the employees are trained as "recovery champions," they are able to fullfill the unspoken rule of bartenders -- as amateur psychologists -- to help those who need a hand stepping up to sobriety.
But while many of the customers are in recovery, Alderdice said his booze-free business also appeals to those who want to avoid the "testosterone, drunk and drug-fueled club and bar scene." As a result, he claimed The Brink is popular with both single women and the city's Muslim community.
Early reviews seem positive. John Sutton of the Liverpool Echo reviewed The Brink and says the booze-free version of the Bloody Mary -- called the "Virgin Mary" -- was better than the alcoholic kind. He finished his article by saying he felt better the morning after than any previous time in a bar.
Meanwhile, some bar industry insiders are skeptical The Brink can make enough money to avoid being on the brink of financial collapse.
Matt Spencer, who owns three high-end bars in San Diego, says the idea of The Brink "sounds cool," but doubts it can support itself.
"No way can it make money," he told The Huffington Post. "It's more of a hip version of AA, but unless someone's offering to pay the rent, I can't see how it can make money."
Spencer says that good bars are usually found in expensive areas, while coffeehouses are in lower rent areas. "Also, a coffeehouse can get away with two baristas, whereas a bar needs 10 employees -- more if it serves food. Of course, if it does, it might survive."
Los Angeles-based addiction specialist Clare Kavin is rooting for The Brink's success, but worries that the place's rep as a dry bar might carry a stigma with Liverpool locals.
"I worry that the place might carry a stigma that if you go there, you are tagged with a booze problem," she told The Huffington Post. "The addiction world is not trying to separate addicts. We're trying to understand so that we can integrate people into society. On the other hand, in a place where alcohol is available everywhere, this might be a good place for people who don't feel comfortable in that environment."
San Francisco-based psychotherapist Brooke Miller is also hopeful that The Brink might actually keep people with alcohol problems from the brink of trouble -- because of its bar-like setting.
"There is a stigma with coffeehouses, mainly that you only go there during the day," she told The Huffington Post. "Also, it's harder to meet people at a coffeehouse. One of the biggest struggles people in recovery have is reinventing their social life. This allows them to work on recovery without being stuck at home.