“’Buzz’ is an interesting word, because we have so much buzz and hype from people being excited,” Ms. Bandrovschi said. Anyway, Listen Bar tries to compensate for liquor-fueled abandon with activities like dominatrix lessons ($15) and a spinning “daredevil wheel” that prompts attendees to get out of their comfort zone by, say, trying a high-fashion catwalk around the room.
On a recent night, the crowd skewed young and female, and the general vibe recalled an office holiday party, minus any leers from sloppy Sam in accounting.
“There’s a layer that feels a little less intimidating and intrusive,” said Sara Posner, 34, the founder of a branding studio. “Sometimes when you’re at a bar and you know are drunk and they are trying to talk to you, there’s like, ‘O.K., I’m going to keep my distance.’”
“In this case,” she said, “it’s something new that everybody is doing for the first time, and they’re kind of like, we’re all in this together, so let’s talk to each other and get to know each other: ‘Why are you here?’”
Over in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, a D.J. named Tasha Blank runs the Get Down at House of Yes, as well as other nightclubs in New York, where no drinks are allowed on the dance floor. In Greenpoint, an alcohol-free bar called Getaway opened in April, featuring an Art Deco-inflected interior and a menu of nonalcoholic cocktails made from ingredients like tobacco syrup and rhubarb shrub.
In Austin, Tex., a substance abuse counselor named Chris Marshall operates an event called Sans Bar, featuring sober glow-in-the-dark disco, karaoke and ’90s-rock singalongs. Mr. Marshall, 36, began a national nine-city Sans Bar tour this past January and plans to expand.