Denver’s first sober bar, Awake, launches national franchise program
In May 2021, Awake opened at 2240 North Clay Street, becoming Denver’s first completely alcohol-free bar. The idea of a thoughtful, alcohol-free space has not only intrigued the Colorado community, but the entire country – which is why Awake announced plans to franchise nationwide.
By day, Awake is an artisanal cafe serving Queen’s Town Cafe as well as locally made pastries and burritos from Say Burrito. But in the afternoon, the space is a completely non-alcoholic bar serving a wide variety of carefully selected mocktails, wines, and non-alcoholic beers.
“It was amazing,” says Billy Wynne, owner of Awake with his wife, Christy. Wynne notes that even before the opening, there was an outpouring of support, gratitude, and enthusiasm for this type of alcohol-free space. The bar opened on a Saturday in May and Wynne didn’t know what to expect. Turns out Awake was packed that first night, and the interest didn’t slow down. Since its opening, its hours have expanded to accommodate the crowds: Initially open for bar service from Thursday to Saturday, it is now open from Tuesday to Sunday.
The most common comments Wynne hears are from patrons who haven’t had alcohol in a few years and haven’t had a place like this to socialize with friends. “They’re amazed at the breadth of our menu,” he adds. The extensive selection offers a variety of mocktails that include both inventively revisited classics and non-alcoholic beer, wine, spirits (available in tasting flights), cordials and aperitifs.
As in a traditional bar, the back is lined with an extensive collection of bottles. “I think people don’t know that this sort of thing is possible in the alcohol-free space,” Wynne notes.
Experimentation goes into crafting thoughtful cocktails, like the Awake 75, an alcohol-free version of a French 75 made with Monday Gin, lemon juice, elderflower and Fre Sparkling Rosé. Some other favorites are Spicy Margarita and Love Potion No. 9, an herbal drink. Many customers come for something unique, but others want a non-alcoholic classic like the Manhattan, Aperol Spritz, Rum & Coke, Sangria, Gin & Tonic, and Wynne’s favorite New Fashioned, made with Kentucky. 74 and aromatic bitters with an orange zest garnish. All Awake beverages contain less than 0.5% ABV.
Seasonal cocktails are also a popular choice, with those doing particularly well becoming a mainstay on the menu. Winter mocktails include Gingerbread Nog, made with vegan eggnog and ginger cookies.
A bottle shop component in Awake allows customers to purchase a non-alcoholic ingredient to experience for themselves. “People come, like what they had and want to make it home,” says Wynne. Delivery is also available in the Denver area and the bottle store is open all day.
The food selection is simple, consisting of hummus, cold cuts, sweets and sandwiches. “Gourmet grilled cheese is our staple,” says Wynne.
And now the Wynnes have announced a new franchise program, giving aspiring business owners the chance to open an alcohol-free Awake bar anywhere in the country. The motive for the expansion came when a client’s TikTok of Awake went viral, garnering more than 2.5 million views – and resulting in an influx of emails from people interested in franchise opportunities.
While there are no confirmed locations at this point, Wynne looks forward to working with those inspired by the brand and Awake’s mission to create a safe alcohol-free space. “We believe we can learn and grow with our franchisees; it’s not a one-way street,” he says.
Awake is located at 2240 North Clay Street and is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, including details on franchising opportunities, visit awakedenver.com.