“A sober place where people can hang out”

LOGAN SQUARE – Cristina Torres struggled to find a hangout that didn’t revolve around alcohol after getting sober in 2020.

“In Chicago, there’s really nothing to do after 7 p.m.,” Torres said. “You can go to a bar. You can go to the cinema and then go to a bar. You can have dinner and a drink, then go to a bar.

Torres said she sat in bars, “watching people drinking,” feeling like she no longer fit in with her friends.

“It wasn’t good head space,” Torres said.

Now Torres, 31, is raising money to open Bendición Dry Bar, an alcohol-free bar and community center that eschews the idea that you have to drink to have a good time. A fundraising online for the project had raised $2,500 toward its goal of $15,000 by Friday morning.

“Our main goal is to create a safe and fun environment where people can come together for dance parties, date nights, have community classes, hold recovery meetings and create those deeper connections that we all have. need and that we all need – without the expectations or social pressure to include alcohol,” Torres wrote in the fundraiser.

“We invite you to try something not often expected of us in bars: remembering the night. To create memories you won’t forget. To be present.”

Torres grew up in Humboldt Park and Archer Heights and currently lives in Logan Square. She does full-time customer service for a composting company, but she has years of restaurant experience.

Until 2020, Torres suffered from alcohol addiction, partying with friends almost every night, she said. She tried to quit drinking several times, but it never worked, in part because that was all everyone in her friend group wanted to do, she said.

“At the end of the day, I always want to start drinking again because it was so lonely not drinking,” she said.

But Torres overcame those challenges and got sober at the start of 2020, which gave her the clarity and strength to launch Bendición Dry Bar, she said.

Over the past two years, Torres has hosted 10 pop-up events under the name Bendición Dry Bar featuring soft drinks and dancing, open-mic nights, and do-it-yourself crafts. She has a series of regular events with Logan Square bar The Native. The next, scheduled for April 30is centered around board games.

Although Torres did not come from a bar background, she was able to build a business around soft drinks with the support of people who run soft drink brands and others in the industry, it said. she declared. She also participated in a six-week course from Sans Bar, an alcohol-free bar in Austin, Texas that teaches people how to start alcohol-free businesses.

“Growing up in Chicago and being in the food industry here, you feel like it’s rude to ask someone how they made something,” Torres said. “What I found in the non-alcoholic space is that it’s totally different. Everyone is super supportive of each other. Even if you don’t want their product, [brands] want to know what you are doing.

Bendición Dry Bar is a true reflection of Torres: what she’s been through, but also where she comes from, she says.

Torres named the company after his immigrant grandparents sent off: “bendición,” which means “blessing” in Spanish and is used as an expression in Puerto Rico.

“They’re the ones sending you with a blessing, so you’re protected,” Torres said. “Both of my grandparents passed away, and this bar is basically in their honor.

“…It’s something I never thought I’d do in my wildest dreams. It’s because of them, it’s because of the way they raised us. I wanted a way to honor them.

The name is also a nod to Torres’ relentless sobriety.

“I’m not super religious, but I couldn’t have done it without some kind of higher power,” she said.

Torres said her long-term goal is to open a brick-and-mortar, “some sober place for people to hang out,” hopefully in a West Side neighborhood like Pilsen that’s mostly home to people of color, she said . Torres is Mexican and Puerto Rican.

“The rate of people of color turning to alcohol is much higher,” she said. “Ideally, I’d like to be in a neighborhood where it would be really helpful for people.”

Torres put money from the pop-ups into her physical account, but she said she still needed a lot more funding — and likely an investor — to open a physical location. Realistically, raising $15,000 online will only get her halfway there, she said.

Torres has big plans for Bendición Dry Bar: she wants the business to double as a community center, mirroring some of the programs she participated in as a child through After School Matters. She plans to host a steady stream of community events, from art fairs and chef showcases to English classes and tax seminars — “anything that would be helpful to people,” she said.

“Actually, that part is more exciting for me: being able to provide a space for people to get whatever kind of help they need,” Torres said.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3) newsroom run by journalists. Every penny we earn funds neighborhoods across Chicago.

Click on here to support Block Club with a tax deductible donation.

Thank you for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every penny we make funds Chicago neighborhoods. Click on here to support Block Club with a tax deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s Alright: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”:

About Rhonda Lee

Check Also

FIFA, World Cup organizers agree to serve alcoholic beer in Qatar stadiums – NBC Boston

World Cup organizers in Qatar have finalized a policy to serve beer with alcohol to …