For many recovering addicts, it is “nights out” that is the biggest obstacle to their abstinence. How can you spend a night sipping lemonade in a pub, as everyone around gets more and more sloshed? How can you ever dance again without alcohol to prop you up (or trip you over, as may be more likely)? And, most importantly, how can you put up with all that nagging from well-meaning but misguided friends and strangers – ‘go on, one drink can’t hurt you’?
This is something only recovering addicts truly understand and, as it turns out, something only they have the solution to. Over the last few years groups of recovering addicts all around the UK have been getting together and opening up ‘recovery cafes’ – alcohol-free pubs focused-built to offer recovering addicts somewhere they can relax, socialise, listen to music, and stay out late; without alcohol dominating the atmosphere. The idea started in America, with dozens of cafes drawing in addicts and no addicts alike. Here in the UK we are still finding our feet, but the number of recovery cafes is well into double digits. Below are the ones we consider to be the best of the bunch.
— The Brink, Liverpool.
Situated just outside of Liverpool’s booze-soaked pub and club heartland, the Brink is an oasis of calm where people can eat, socialise, listen to live music and generally while the days and nights away. Best of all, all of their profits go back into the community to fund support for those struggling with addiction.
— Cafe Hub, Darwen, Lancashire
Founded and run entirely by volunteers recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, the Cafe Hub has proved a surprising success in the small Lancashire town of Darwen. Offering food and non-alcoholic drinks through the day and often opening late on weekends to host bands and serve dinners, it has put Darwen firmly on the map for recovering addicts looking for alcohol-free fun.
— Paper and Cup, London
Straddling the line between bookshop and cafe, Paper and Cup started out in North East London as a ‘professional and safe environment where people can grow, learn and move on’. It seems to work – Each year, the cafe trains 16 recovering addicts up to be professional barsitas, and recently they opened a second establishment up the road on St. Paul’s Way.
— Serenity Cafe, Edinburgh
Serenity cafe is where it all started. Back in 2009, a small group of people in recovery pulled together to turn a cold, empty building into Britain’s first recovery cafe. Seven years later, it is going stronger than ever, with weekly community events, music, games and film nights.
— Trew Era Cafe, London
Started by Russell Brand, recovery’s most public (and, some might say, most unbearable’ mouthpiece), the Trew Era Cafe bought recovery cafes firmly into the media’s gaze. This can only be a good thing, especially as the cafe’s philosophy is built on the very sensible idea that “if we regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people, then we can help them to get better.”