Our Cover Interview with Chris Marshall

Magazine Archives
| Summer
2023 |
Volume 2,
Issue 2

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Our Cover Interview with Chris Marshall

For the cover of our Summer 2023 Issue. Chris Marshall of Austin's Sans Bar sat down with AFTER EIC Nicole Pietrandrea Hough to discuss the growth of the AF movement and creating connection for us all.

Photo credits:

Cassandria Alvarado (Photo of Chris)

Sam Cohen (Photo of Nicole) 

The following interview has been edited for space and clarity.

CHRIS MARSHALL casts a watchful eye over a roomful of revelers—one of the many alcohol-free parties he has been hosting on the Sans Bar Tour taking place in cities around the U.S. this year. He’s here to greet his guests, some of whom drive hours to attend, and is simultaneously focused on his larger mission. He stands ready to jump into action as needed—whether to wipe up a spill, direct someone where they need to go, or make an introduction, Chris wants you to leave the evening feeling like you’re a PART of something. And it works. His parties have become immensely popular—as has his bar, Sans Bar, in Austin, TX. But more importantly, people leave these events feeling uplifted and excited about being part of the alcohol-free crowd. There is a discernable joy in the air as people sip mocktails and talk about how they came to be in this space. 

AFTER editor-in-chief, Nicole Pietrandrea Hough, caught up with Chris after a recent Sans Bar party in New York to talk more about the Sans Bar story, creating connection, what’s next in the alcohol-free movement, and Chris’s plans for the future.


Nicole Pietrandrea Hough for AFTER: 

You’re meeting people all over the country in the alcohol-free community [at the Sans Bar Tour parties]. What’s the vibe like out there? 

Chris Marshall: 

I think people are really excited about connecting to [an alcohol-free] community. They might have seen nonalcoholic drinks on Instagram or other social media, and they’re excited to experience it for themselves. It’s really exciting to have some of our beverage partners come into the event and be part of it. But more importantly, it’s the sober people, some of whom travel two hours or more to these gatherings for the opportunity to become part of this larger movement and form local connections. Finding those connections with people who are like you, who are not drinking for whatever reason. 

 

N: Take me back to your starting point when you decided to start Sans Bar. What did that look like for you? 

C: It was a decision that I didn’t want to make. I had the idea for an alcohol-free bar for a long time. I wanted someplace to go personally and I believed that it was something that people needed. But I also recognized it was going to be a lot of work. I was so afraid of the work. It was more than I could do with a full-time job and it just seemed like this hill to climb that was too much. 

I was working [as a licensed substance use counselor] at the time and had a client who was struggling. The last time we talked was on a Friday night, the client told me that they had been struggling to choose between being social and being alcohol-free. They were mid-30s, professional, really brilliant, and it made me so sad that this was [the choice someone had to make]. That client eventually succumbed to their substance use, and that was the breaking point for me. That made the decision [to start an alcohol-free bar] a lot easier. 

I knew there were a lot of things stacked against the success of Sans Bar, but I didn’t care. The only thing on my mind at that time was to create a place where people could find their starting point if they were deciding [between being social or being alcohol-free]. That’s why I started Sans Bar.

AFTER Magazine Cover Winter 2023-24

If you really want to change and shift the culture—not just use [alcohol-free] as a marketing tool—then consider embracing the word “sober”...[and make it clear that] sober people are welcome.

Sans Bar

The first non-alcoholic bar in North America.

Located at 918 Congress, Austin, Texas, our upscale bar is the cornerstone of our mission to create connection in the AF community.

Since 2017, we’ve been serving the central Texas community with premium alcohol-free cocktails, proving that socializing can be vibrant and enjoyable without alcohol.

Visit Sans Bar at 918 Congress Ave  Austin, TX 78701

Sans Bar Academy

Your Path to Starting Your Own Booze-Free Brand

Are you ready to embark on a transformative journey towards building your own alcohol-free pop-up bar or brand? Look no further than Sans Bar Academy—an immersive 10-week virtual program designed to equip you with the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to turn your vision into reality.

Led by industry expert Chris Marshall, Sans Bar Academy has helped over 45 students go from a concept on paper to a profitable business model. With his wealth of experience and insider insights, Chris is dedicated to empowering aspiring entrepreneurs like you to succeed in the alcohol-free space.

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