Our blog

How festivals are adapting to sober party-goers

Mar 27 2020

How festivals are adapting to sober party-goers

With a rise in the amount of Britons reducing their alcohol intake or giving up the bottle completely, it comes as no surprise that festivals are stepping up their game to ensure this group are being catered to, with unique alcohol-free experiences and innovative non-alcoholic drinks that will enable them to join in on all festivities.

More choice please, bartender!

Festivals have largely been very alcohol centric, with not much on offer for sober attendees. This has been a big factor that has typically put off a lot of teetotalers from going to festivals in the past.

Megan, blogger at Dittrich Diary, told us how a lack of choice has been the biggest downfall of a lot of festivals: “Normally, the only options are Coca Cola or another brand name. No non-alcoholic cocktails or anything exciting. I find I’m usually stood there with a bottle of water as there isn’t really anything else on offer.”

Blogger Tajinder Kaur also agrees that being able to choose from a variety of low and no options can make all the difference: “If you’re searching for a soft drink at the bar, you’d usually get offered water or soda. It’s nice when you get a mocktail option or something with more flavour. Organisers shouldn’t solely rely on food and drink stalls to provide this – it should just be part of the offering.”

In terms of where festivals are now, Melanie from Two Plus Dogs believes that organisers have indeed stepped up their game and are doing more to ensure that they offer choice to their alcohol-conscious customers. “I think organisers are becoming better than ever at catering for sober festival-goers as the younger generation are much less reliant on alcohol for a good time than us oldies. They expect tasty mocktails and delicious smoothies and often go for these drinks over alcohol, so there seems to be plenty of non-alcoholic options available to cater to this.”

It’s all about the experience

“Although many licensed venues have upped their game and stock more zero- and low-alcohol drinks, some customers want an alcohol-free environment too,” says an article by Morning Advertiser. It seems the drinks industry is moving out of the phase of teetotalers demanding more choice, with the focus now shifting to sober experiences.

“Providing great alcohol-free or low-alcohol drinks is just one way that planners can keep non-drinkers staying and paying at their events,” says an article by Eventbrite, but, “sober people are more likely to look for other things to do on a night out – for example, they’re more likely to buy dessert.”

Speaking to Eventbrite, Club Soda founder Laura Willoughby MBE said that event organisers should see teetotalism as an opportunity, not just something to cater for: “If half the room leaves because they’re driving, pregnant, don’t drink for religious reasons or just don’t fancy drinking, what you’ve done is lessen the experience for everybody.”

One way that festivals are being inclusive of non-drinkers is by having sober tents, says Tajinder. “Festival organisers are catering to sober attendees with designated sober tents, which some festivals offer. It’s rejuvenating to be with other like-minded attendees, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed - they’ll be able to relate to you unlike others.”

An example of this is The Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Although a beer festival, the event organisers wanted to create space for non-drinkers to enjoy the event, says Smart Meetings.

“In order to make the sizable group of sober attendees comfortable, they set up a lounge. In this area, they provide complimentary food and beverages, including Bavarian pretzels and craft sodas. For enjoyment, they provide free chair massages from massage therapists and movie screenings.

“Allowing the non-alcoholic space reduces the feeling of being left out and eliminates the pressure to drink.”

Laura says that as well as having more spaces created at events for non-drinkers, she believes we could see a lot more sober-centric events cropping up: “There’s a lot of curiosity around alcohol-free events at the moment and people want to go and try out the drinks, so I think this is something that will become increasingly mainstream.”

Reasons not to be put off going to a festival sober

Although we are seeing an increase in sober spaces at events and festivals, they can still be tough places for those not drinking. If you’re planning to go to a festival and want to abstain, make sure you read what our bloggers had to say.

“You have a lot more energy when you stay sober.”

“I do love sitting on the grass (weather dependent) and enjoying a crisp G&T whilst listening to music in the sunshine (idyllic, hey?) but I most definitely find that I enjoy the whole day overall if I stay sober. I have more stamina to walk around, dance and see what is on offer, I feel more awake to go for the long haul of the day.”

- Melanie, Two Plus Dogs

“You’re able to take everything in.”

“The main benefit for me is that you remember the festival, but also that you can fully enjoy it. You don’t have to worry about getting yourself in a drunken fight, falling over or getting lost. You can enjoy the atmosphere fully.”

- Megan, Dittrich Diary

“There are many benefits to being sober at a festival, but mainly, you remember the entire experience and you’ll genuinely enjoy the performances (and you won’t have to battle with a hangover the next day!).

- Tajinder, Tajinder Kaur

“You can spend your money on other cool experiences.” 

“The food at festivals has really upped its game so why not spend your money trying some delicious street food rather than drinks, which so tend to be less varied and interesting at festivals? It is also much, much cheaper to not drink alcohol at a festival as beverages can be pricey.”

- Melanie, Two Plus Dogs

About the author: 

Kamila is a bestselling author of  “Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation”, and passionate trend-spotter for the UK Eating Out market with thousands of followers on her widely popular blog www.KamilaSitwell.co.uk.

With a decade of hands-on experience collaborating with hospitality influencers and insight experts and background in setting strategies for leading brands, Kamila has become the industry champion for truly bespoke and guest-centric experiences. 

Intrigued? Learn more:

Going sober: teetotal bloggers share their stories and advice

Should pubs and bars be doing more to incentivise sobriety?

Why do social situations usually have to mean drinking?