New bar brings alcohol-free alternative to Iowa City

Unimpaired Dry Bar and Eats offers a sober option for those who want to go out without pressure to drink

With the vibrant nightlife that exists in Iowa City, Unimpaired Dry Bar and Eats is going in a different direction.

On the menu, customers can find mimosas, sangria, mai tais, daiquiris, mojitos and martinis, all alcohol-free. The bar also offers zero-proof beer, whiskey, wine, vodka, and gin, as well as energy drink mixers and iced coffee.

Owner Amber Haines said she was inspired to create a dry bar after facing peer pressure to drink when she went out.

“I thought to myself why couldn’t there be a place where people can socialize and enjoy these alcohol-free nightlife? Haines said.

Haines, who has been sober for four years, has never experienced alcohol addiction but has witnessed how it affected members of his family. Her father died at the age of 42 from alcoholism.

When acquiring the location that would later become her business – Amber’s Mayne Street Grub and Pub in Bluegrass, Iowa – Haines said she made the decision to quit drinking.

“That’s when I really realized my relationship with alcohol and how I wanted things to change before I bought the bar,” she said.

Haines said she wasn’t the only one at Unimpaired Bar and Eats who chose to quit drinking. She said about half of the staff at the Iowa City site do not drink.

Kennedy Callan, Unimpaired bartender and director of entertainment for the Iowa City site, said she had also been sober for four years.

“A lot of our employees have chosen to take a break or slow things down,” she said. “We have one person on the team today who has been sober for 16 months this month, so it’s pretty exciting.”

One of the positive effects the dry bar could have on Iowa City, Haines said, is to give consumers more options to choose from when it comes to participating in the nightlife. The bar offers live music, karaoke every Monday evening and has trivia every Thursday evening.

“We try every night of the week to have something that people can come in and socialize with and hang out for,” she said.

Dubuque resident Gabe Wigginton, customer of Unimpaired Bar and Eats, said he liked the bar to offer more inclusivity than most other bars.

“Not everyone in college drinks alcohol, but they might want to be part of the experience,” he said.

Amanda O’Donnell, general manager of the Iowa City site, said the bar will offer pizza and salads to start, and add more dining options over time.

While business has been good in the first week that her location opened, she said there is still a long way to go.

“I think a lot of it is about making it known that we are open and that we are finding the right platform to advertise. [from]”, she said,” … But I think it’s spreading now. “

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