5 Alcohol-Free Alternatives For Your Dry January

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A uniquely modern light fixture hangs above the counter at Teance Fine Teas.  (Melanie Burke)

Freshly motivated to accomplish New Year’s resolutions after the excess of the holidays, a lot of people choose to scale back drinking alcohol during January. A “dry January” looks different for each person, depending on what they’re trying to accomplish — maybe they keep the glass of wine with dinner but skip the bar outings on Friday night. Or maybe they limit themselves to one drink only at the company happy hour.

Regardless, skipping drinking can sometimes feel like it's costing you your social life. Whether you’re suffering FOMO seeing your friends at the newest wine bar or compromising your goal for a second beer at game night, finding ways to stick to your guns when everyone around you is drinking can be rough. But, it can be a positive to stick it out according to life coach and speaker Allie Stark.

“Deciding to cut back or stop consuming alcohol after the excess of the holiday season is an active change in a behavior that will inherently influence your thoughts and your feelings,” says Stark. “This can have a large impact on your relationships, your motivation at work, your internal confidence, and so much more.”

Stark suggests communicating your goals clearly and openly with friends and family, then stick to the folk who understand why you’re choosing not to drink — at least for a little bit. “Actively choose to surround yourself with friends and family that respect your decision to not drink for the time being, as it will allow for an easier and more enjoyable experience while it is taking place,” says Stark.

Luckily, there is an endless combination of places to meet friends and enjoy one another in the Bay Area that don’t involve alcohol. Here are just a few to get you started:

Church of Eight Wheels

554 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94117

Skaters zip by the DJ booth at the Church of Eight Wheels.
Skaters zip by the DJ booth at the Church of Eight Wheels. (Melanie Burke)

For more than 40 years, The Church of 8 Wheels has operated a lively roller disco in a former Catholic church on Fillmore street. Friday and Saturday nights are 18+ skates, and for $15 cash (entrance and skate rental) you can join fellow roller enthusiasts underneath the stained glass and disco ball. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or this is your first time strapping on skates, you’ll fit right in the circular flow, and you don’t have to worry about falling. Not only does everyone do it, but safety staff will scoot to your side in no time to keep you from getting run over and help you back on your wheels.


Aside from satisfying that internal whimsy we all have — who doesn’t look at a massive open space like a church and think, “dang, I could roller skate in here?” — a Friday night at The Church of 8 Wheels hits more than a couple of the usual New Year’s resolution marks. You’ll be exercising, trying something new, and because there’s no alcohol on the premises, you’ll be swapping a beer for a Gatorade or Coca-cola. If you like to be resolute as a family, The Church offers a family skate on Saturdays, 3-5 pm.

Grand Lake Theatre

3200 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610

The Grand Lake Theatre has been a community staple for moviegoers in Oakland since 1926. Photo courtesy the author.
The Grand Lake Theatre has been a community staple for moviegoers in Oakland since 1926. Photo courtesy the author. (Melanie Burke)

Opened in 1926, the Grand Lake Theatre has been showing movies in Oakland for more than 90 years. Nestled between Lakeshore and Grand Ave, the theatre’s long-standing presence and declarative marquee messages have made it a community staple. While their matinee prices are a draw on their own at $6 (and $5 all day Tuesday!), the theatre itself makes seeing a movie at Grand Lake a full-on experience.

Upon entering, you’re greeted by a chandelier and plush, dark antique carpeting that winds up a stunning grand staircase. The original main screen has maintained its jazz-age glam with greek columns and ceiling filigree. The additional screens were added and redesigned in the 80’s, pulling inspiration from the theatre’s decade of origin — one is “Egyptian,” the other “Moorish.”  

So far as snacks go, Grand Lake offers standard fare like popcorn, soda, and favorite movie sweets all at the expected movie prices. There don’t seem to be designs to add in pizza or beer like at other independent movie theatres in the bay — and that’s okay. In pursuit of supporting a local institution, however, the few extra dollars for a snack are worth it, meaning your potential resolution to skip alcohol and do more in your neighborhood will hit the mark.

Teance Fine Teas

1780 Fourth St
Berkeley, CA 94710

Experience new teas from around the world with a tea flight at Teance Fine Teas.
Experience new teas from around the world with a tea flight at Teance Fine Teas. (Melanie Burke)

Grabbing a coffee together is always a popular alternative to going for a drink, but not everyone enjoys pour-overs or lattes. For the discerning tea drinker, Teance Fine Teas offers an inviting and tranquil place to enjoy a seemingly endless variety of loose leaf teas.

Pronounced “tee-ahnce,” (think “ambiance” and “tea” together) the tea shop has been in Berkeley for more than a decade, expanding into its current space on the popular fourth street. While customers can come in and pick up a favorite tea to take home, they’re also more than welcome to share a pot of house tea ($5) or a fine tea blend ($7) together in the upstairs seating area. The space is quiet, with sleek modern lines and a fountain in the center of the store with real live koi.

For a full experience beyond simply having a cuppa, you can do a tea flight at the downstairs counter. Each flight is three types of tea of your choice ($27) and a staff member will guide you through each, offering samples of different steeps, talking through the history of the tea, and answering your questions. Tea varieties include white, green (Chinese and Japanese), oolong (Chinese and Taiwanese), red, and pu-erh, the last of which comes in a tightly compacted disc and requires a knife to break off for steeping, which puts a little excitement into an otherwise soothing experience.

The specially designed counter features space for small groups to experience a tea flight together and one flight is absolutely shareable with two people. For groups of four or more, however, you should call ahead to book an appointment as space is limited.

Creme Brewlee Bistro

2948 S Norfolk St
San Mateo, CA 94403

Friends with a meg-sweet tooth will love meeting up at Creme Brewlee for a shaved snow, pictured here.
Friends with a meg-sweet tooth will love meeting up at Creme Brewlee for a shaved snow, pictured here. (Melanie Burke)

Sometimes the best surprises are in unassuming places. Creme Brewlee is one such adventure, a combination bistro and dessert spot in the Marina Plaza Shopping Center in San Mateo. The menu includes a diverse array of items that range halfway across the globe and back: coffee, lattes, gelato, hot pot, shaved snow, and of course, the titular creme brulee.

One of the most unique sweets is the shaved snow, a fluffy, layered take on its crunchier cousin of the icy variety. Snow at Creme Brewlee is $8 and includes your choice of snow flavor, syrup, and two toppings (with additional toppings for fifty cents apiece). It’s not overwhelmingly sweet despite being made entirely of frozen sugar, and the soft crunch on each bite is exactly like eating snow when you were a kid. Except, of course, this snow is meant to be eaten. Bring a friend or a loved one for this snow pile, however, as your $8 buys you a literal mound of dessert.

Creme Brewlee doesn’t do much for your resolution to eat healthier, but you’ll be exploring a new neighborhood, a new dessert style, and most importantly, skipping sugary cocktails in favor of something super “cool.”

Albany Bowl

540 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94706

Albany Bowl is a great spot to share french fries and a few games with friends.
Albany Bowl is a great spot to share french fries and a few games with friends. (Melanie Burke)

Finally, what better way to enjoy a little sober fun with friends than bowling? You may be outraged at the very idea of entering a bowling alley without also purchasing a pitcher to split, but Albany Bowl has more than enough french fries, onion rings, and sweet pin knockdowns to make you forget you wanted a beer in the first place.

Located right on San Pablo Avenue in Albany, this retro bowling alley has been in operation since 1949. Regular rates run $6 per game per person, with a $4.50 flat shoe rental if you don’t already have your own. However, each day of the week brings its own discounts or specials, like $1.50 games on Monday and Tuesday nights or a killer 2 games-for-1 deal for groups of Cal-Berkeley students.


Little J’s Cafe attaches directly to Albany Bowl and offers American diner favorites like burgers and tater tots. If you’re hoping to order snacks while avoiding temptation, the bar is all the way in the back of the bowling alley far and away from Little J’s. Order your french fries and enjoy your resolute choices without ever having to think twice.