It’s a hangout, not a hangover: Could a sober bar be coming to a town near you?

‘Inmoxicated’ is paving the way for others

The margarita (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

If you were to casually stroll into this hangout, you might not necessarily realize that there’s no alcohol on the menu – at least, not right away.

The business looks like a bar. The bar itself greets you, along with a bartender, right when you swing open the door, and toward the back of the establishment, you’ll see a dart board, a pool table, a jukebox, props for picture-taking and more. These are all typically signs of a place where you can grab a cold beer or a cocktail.

But not at Inmoxicated, which is tucked into a line of shops and restaurants in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan.

The pool table (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

You see, Inmoxicated might LOOK like a bar. But they’ve swapped cocktails for mocktails, meaning there’s actually no alcohol served. You’ll start to pick up on the signs once you poke around the sober bar for a few minutes – like the literal sign perched above the bartender’s head, reading: “SO BAR.”

Get it? So-bar? (Sober!)

There are all sorts of fun touches like this one.

The idea for Inmoxicated was the brainchild of owner Shannon Goodman and manager Jeff Gustin. They got the keys in October 2021, and turned the concept into reality, opening their doors Dec. 14.

Inmoxicated, in Racine, Wisconsin (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

They’ve enjoyed a nice reception from the local community, Gustin said, although some days are slower than others, just based on the weather (it’s still pretty cold in Racine, which is about 30 miles south of Milwaukee). Goodman and Gustin expect business to pick up a bit once summer officially arrives.

Goodman is excited to see it all come together. She knows firsthand what it’s like to quit drinking, and to seek out an alternative to a traditional bar.

Of course, non-drinkers can always go to “normal” bars and opt for soft drinks or beverages that are alcohol-free, but that can be triggering for some, to be around others who are intoxicated or even just drinking socially.

Goodman envisioned somewhere with all the same social aspects as a bar, just no booze.

Some people ask if Inmoxicated is a juice bar or a coffee shop, but it’s far from either of those things.

Despite there being 0 alcohol in the drinks, these are still adult beverages – Goodman and Gustin said they wouldn’t serve them to children, and they’re definitely not kiddie cocktails.

Here’s a look at one page of the menu (and it’s a big menu!), so you can get a feel for what we mean:

The menu (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

If you’ve never explored non-alcoholic, or NA, options, there are a LOT. You might be surprised. (I certainly was!)

You’ll also learn, not everything has an alcoholic counterpart.

Meaning, vodka obviously exists, and on Inmoxicated’s menu, you’ll see a NA “vodka alternative.”

But then when it comes to non-alcoholic “spirits,” there are so many more – it goes way beyond NA gins and tequilas. Seedlip and Wilderton are two brands they sell at Inmoxicated, and Goodman poured me a small sample of Wilderton’s Earthen, telling me I was welcome to smell it, taste it; whatever I was comfortable with.

It was super fragrant, and I almost expected it to taste like potpourri, based on the smell – but that wasn’t it; not at all. Once it hit my lips, I realized just how complex the drink really was. I can’t explain the taste, or I didn’t take detailed notes on it, but it kind of blew my mind just how unique it was. I could imagine it truly elevating my next “mocktail.”

The drinks, by the way, are incredible. I tried a White Russian and a prickly pear margarita, and I couldn’t pick what I liked better. They were both super layered, complex, and the attention to detail was unmatched. They even did a sugared rim on my marg, and a dollop of whipped cream on the White Russian. I gulped both down fairly quickly. You don’t have to worry about pacing yourself when there’s no liquor involved!

The White Russian (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

Goodman and Gustin appreciated the enthusiasm, and you get the sense they’re just happy to be open, sharing their creations with the world. Even though they’ve only been in business a handful of months, they’ve seen visitors from Illinois and even Green Bay, Wisconsin (which is a few hour drive).

There are so many reasons why someone might not drink: Addiction, trying to improve their general health, religion (and hey, as Gustin pointed out, you don’t NEED to have a reason for not drinking!), plus, some tend to avoid the bar scene too, just as a personal choice.

Especially when it comes to addiction, Goodman said she can imagine someone avoiding all of it – the dart board, the jukebox, socialization; and sometimes, folks isolate.

“But connection is important for everyone,” she added.

This is where the “bar” shines.

Inmoxicated provides a way for people to maintain that human-to-human connection, regardless of what’s going on in their lives – booze or no booze, it’s a place to hang. A pregnant woman even came in recently and did a “shot” with her girlfriends, to celebrate her birthday. It doesn’t matter why you’re there, it’s just downright fun.

A sampling of the bottles they have for sale (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

They’re open till midnight on the weekends. A lot of their customers don’t want to stay out until traditional bar close or 2 a.m. anyway – they don’t have time for hangovers; they have things to do the next morning, Gustin said with a laugh.

People sometimes swing by Inmoxicated too, to buy a bottle. The bar sells its spirits that way, kind of like a storefront, and customers appreciate that. Or, if they don’t want to commit to a $35 bottle, of course, they can try a mocktail at the “bar” beforehand. This design and setup makes NA drinking accessible and affordable.

“People can figure out what they like here,” Gustin said. “We’re giving them a place where they can figure it out.”

Added Goodman, “There’s this whole world of stuff out there.”

More bottles (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

Inmoxicated offers events, too. They’ve either dabbled in, or they’re in the process of booking, live music, speed dating and karaoke, to name a few.

They’re also working to set up a concession trailer, as well, which they plan to take to festivals. Goodman is well aware of the drink selection at festivals, especially when it comes to non-alcoholic beverages. “It’s water and overpriced lemonade,” she joked.

This is a way of presenting people with more choices. Inmoxicated plans to serve a limited menu, but they expect it’ll still be an improvement.

“I know I personally like to have options when I go places,” Goodman said.

Cute props you'll find toward the back of the bar. (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

Goodman and Gustin said they really didn’t have many other examples of businesses to copy or model themselves after, because they’re one of the first places to do this.

They did receive a call recently from someone in another state, looking to create a similar venue, but the concept hasn’t gone nationwide just yet.

“We’re modeled after a bar. We took your average Wisconsin bar (and used that as a jumping-off point),” Gustin said.

Speaking of your average Wisconsin bar, they even offer a smoked old-fashioned!

Inmoxicated, by the way, is intended for the 21 and older crowd. Gustin said it’s important that they don’t sensationalize the bar experience for those who are younger.

“We’re here for people who know what bar life is like, but they’re trying to get away from all that,” Gustin said.

Do you know of any similar establishments in your area? We’d love to hear about them!