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Dry January attracts customers to Boston's new non-alcoholic beverage shop

Dry January attracts customers to Boston's new non-alcoholic beverage store
Dry January attracts customers to Boston's new non-alcoholic beverage store 02:37

BOSTON - The annual "Dry January" challenge that started overseas in the UK has picked up steam in the U.S. over recent years. The goal: a sober month to kick off the new year.

Studies show that one in four Americans are aware of the "sober curious" movement and that nearly 40 percent are interested in drinking less.

Zack Rothman, of Boston, has done the challenge for the last few years. "I feel a little healthier," he said. "I feel a little lighter. I sleep better, and things just seem to be better in terms of energy, so it's just a great way to start the year off, you know."

WBZ-TV met Rothman as he walked into Dray Drinks, a new non-alcoholic bottle shop that claims to be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

Dray Drinks owner and founder Pat Dooling says he wants to help those looking for a non-alcoholic option for Dry January and beyond. CBS Boston

"About two years ago, I quit drinking, which was a hugely profound choice in my life," owner and founder Pat Dooling told WBZ-TV. "Our mission, quite honestly, is not just to nail January. We are here for that, of course, but our mission is to have you continue in February and March and the entire year."

Dray offers a selection of 250 non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirit options. On Tuesday, the store's first day open in the New Year, several people came inside curious about Dry January. "I did overindulge over the holidays, and I wanted to start the new year healthier," said Melissa Flamburis, who plans to cut back on drinking.

Doctors think the idea of Dry January is great for personal health. "The benefits of abstaining from drinking alcohol are really great," said Dr. Michelle DiBlasi, the chief of Inpatient Psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center. "Your mood can improve. You can potentially lose weight. If you're overweight, you can feel better about yourself. You can sleep better."

However, Dr. DiBlasi warns about the risks of such a stark challenge. "I personally think it's better to not think in that sort of all-or-nothing mentality because I really do think it sets you up for failure most of the time. So if you can kind of, just, you know, cut back in small ways that can oftentimes have a more long-lasting effect," she said.

The effects of Dry January also hurt business at bars and breweries during an already slow season. "So breweries and wineries, and those type of places, there's a noticeable drop off with Dry January, and more and more people doing it," explained Stephen Clark, the president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

"What we have been observing is that some alcohol brands have faced sales declines stemming from the sober curious movement, but premium alcoholic beverage options have also seen sales increases as sober curious consumers may be treating themselves to high-quality drinks that allow them to achieve their health and wellness goals," said Rob Mellion, the executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association. "As an example, tequila as a category has seen a noticeable decline, but higher-end products are still in demand. Same goes for whiskies and bourbon. Beer has taken the biggest hits, but sober curious is one of many factors impacting malt beverages. Cannabis is a factor, as is the fact that people in general are drinking less beer, about the same wine, but more spirits. The biggest reason for the shift is the rise of ready-to-drink cocktails."

Back at Dray Drinks, owner Pat Dooling is hoping a more interesting array of available non-alcoholic options will lead to not only people choosing their health but also a community of sober or light drinkers in the area. "If you have the information that alcohol is harmful and you don't want to do it, where do you go for your options to feel like you're still part of the party?" Dooling said. He hopes Dray can be that spot.

Dray is hosting its official launch party - open to all, no ticket necessary - on January 6. A portion of all proceeds at the store at all times goes towards a non-profit that supports people in recovery for addiction.

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