Sans Bar: Austin Sober Bar Helps People in Recovery to Connect

Sans Bar: Austin Sober Bar Helps People in Recovery to Connect

Sans Bar

When you’re in recovery, you still want to have fun and enjoy social events. Of course, the pandemic has made that a little more challenging. Even during normal times, though, it can prove difficult to socialize with other people in a sober setting. Now there is an Austin sober bar that helps people in recovery to connect. The Sans Bar, the first of its type in Austin, continues its mission throughout the pandemic restrictions.

The Sans Bar Story

Founder Chris Marshall launched Sans Bar in 2017 to create a safe and inviting atmosphere for people who want to have a good time without alcohol. Marshall was a counselor previously and knew first-hand the struggle of people who wanted to find a place to go that is fun and energetic but safe for those who want to have a great night without alcohol. 

Marshall had $200 and no business experience when he decided to launch Sans Bar. In his mind, creating a sober bar in Austin was more important than his lack of funding or expertise. He said in a recent interview, “When you remove alcohol, you have to replace it with something. That something is connection. Bars are typically social hot spots, so why should that change without alcohol?”

Sober for 13 years himself, Marshall understands well the importance of maintaining social connections in recovery. He was a substance abuse counselor for Travis County’s local public mental health agency before opening Sans Bar. In launching the sober bar, he has also helped propel the “sober curious” movement as he helps people in recovery to connect. He is also supporting those who are interested in becoming sober and those who want to enjoy a good time without alcohol.

In a Facebook message that Marshall posted in December 2020, he celebrated the three year anniversary of Sans Bar. He said his idea was “born from a lifetime of craving connection.” Starting out as a pop-up sober bar with a growing crowd each week, Sans Bar moved into a brick and mortar space in 2018. The next year, they began a tour across the US and Canada, partnering with other organizations to “create magical events that made headlines.”

The Sober Bar Difference

When an individual in recovery wants to enjoy socialization and a few non-alcoholic drinks on a weekend evening, the choices had been limited. While it is certainly possible to go to a regular bar and order a non-alcoholic drink, the temptations are everywhere in such an environment. Sans Bar provides a totally sober experience, for those in recovery and for those who simply want to enjoy a night out without alcohol.

COVID-19 Challenges

Given the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bar was forced to close in March 2020, but considers itself to only be in hibernation. Marshall continues to host events, although they are now virtual, and to keep that connection with patrons who want an opportunity to enjoy themselves without alcohol. He says in his Facebook post that as soon as it is safe to gather again in real life, “we will be back to our mission of creating safe, inclusive social experiences across the globe.”

The anxiety and restlessness of the pandemic and its restrictions have impacted almost everyone. People living with an addiction are particularly susceptible to the effects of isolation and stress. Closing the doors of the Sans Bar’s physical space was a difficult decision but he felt it was the right thing to do during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, he is worried that losing a space to socialize in a sober setting is having a profound impact.

He told the Austin Chronicle in a May interview, “Never in my sobriety have I seen so many people posting about overdose or relapse.” If friends aren’t posting on social media about COVID-19, he said, they’re talking about people they’ve known who succumbed to relapse, or worse, died from overdose.

A Virtual Social Connection Continues

Until the Sans Bar can reopen physically, it continues to provide opportunities to people in recovery to connect virtually. Marshall is active on social media, encouraging others to share their stories and to participate in events such as Zoom Sober Happy Hour. The sober also hosts alcohol-free recipe courses and a live music show inspired by the unique sounds of Austin. Marshall says it’s important to keep people in recovery connected, especially when they are not able to see each other in person.

Given his experience in substance abuse counseling and now with managing the Sans Bar, Marshall says he knows that not many people can achieve sobriety and sustain it on their own. They need that social connection and support. He says that sobriety “is a marathon you run with others, but on your own at the same time. We are a collective, but we are also individual stories.”


When you need help with your addiction to drugs or alcohol, you will find the right resources at Sober Austin. We provide the information on treatment and recovery that will help you overcome your addiction. We also understand that life can be even more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic and urge you to review the resources on our site so you can get the help you need now. You can also feel free to contact us directly by calling (512) 522-7135 or emailing