The avenues of San Francisco are famous for their long stretches of colorful houses and lack of drinking places. In all of this calm, Joshua James literally stumbled across a space for rent. The following month, James, who also owns Ocean beach cafe in Outer Richmond, will open Temperance Bar, an invitation-only non-alcoholic bar for food and beverage professionals. The space will house 100 different spirits, mixers and soft drinks.
The idea for Temperance Bar, what James calls a “future speakeasy lounge”, came to James after six months of sobriety, when he realized he could use his 20 years as a bartender to create a space for d other people who are sober or not aware of alcohol. After creating such an environment at Ocean Beach Cafe, his non-alcoholic community restaurant, he is looking to do it again.
The bar will be dark and golden and private, but as a longtime bartender, he’s reluctant to call it a speakeasy. He prefers to call it a salon and stresses that it won’t be a public place – James is keeping the address a secret, but says people can contact him for details. “I’ll choose who comes,” James said. “There will be a communication process.” The space will feature a futuristic theme in hopes of balancing NFT art on the walls with natural-edged wooden elements. Later, James hopes to accept payments with blockchain, which he says will appeal to the forward-looking audience he expects from the courts.
By the end of March, the space will be presentable enough to host non-alcoholic mixology events and classes and shoot videos, something James (who has a YouTube channel called Josh The Non Alcoholic) plans to continue. The intent behind the guest list is to demonstrate what a non-alcoholic bar program might look like and how entrepreneurs can incorporate it into their businesses, he says. “I’ve been in the craft cocktail business for years. These are my people,” James says. “I want to bring them into this world.”
In January 2021, the YouTube drink critic and former bartender opened the doors to the Ocean Beach Cafe at 734 La Playa Street. The restaurant is one of the few physical businesses in the country whose stated purpose is to serve non-drinkers. James says his inclusion Without a Bar in Austin and Awake Sober Bar in Denver. To continue his role in the movement and generate buzz for the new project, James is also producing “Drinking Less,” a documentary he wants to premiere on Amazon.
Ocean Beach Cafe is just one of a growing wave of alcohol-free businesses opening up around the Bay Area. Hawkerfare, the long-running Lao bar and restaurant on Valencia Street, has installed a smart vending machine that only serves soft drinks; zero proof bottle store False Real recently opened in Los Altos; and Ben’s friends, a national support group for people in the hospitality industry struggling with addiction, is launching a new San Francisco chapter at Che Fico on February 20. “Humans haven’t had that as an option and a choice in the past,” James says. “What all of this means is a change in culture, namely the drinking culture. This is a different perception from the default.