Brighton’s only dedicated low/no-alcohol shop and bar, Tørstigbar, opened in November 2022. As the hybrid retailer approaches its one year anniversary, owners Emmi Edwards and Luke Cousins discuss adaptogenic drinks, educating consumers and a new opening

We get a real mix of people coming into Tørstigbar. I’d say around 70-75% of our customer base don’t drink, but then the remainder are people who are moderating their drinking. There are also people who are coming in because they’re just curious to see what it’s like for themselves. Then they’ll often walk away with a pack of drinks to take home and try, so it’s helping to introduce drinkers to the low/no category as well. At the moment, the business is about an 80/20 split between on and off -trade sales, but we’re looking to do more in the off-trade.

We are constantly trying to find new products. We do have a core collection but we’re always trying to add to that so, as new products come along, we always try them to see if we think our customers will like them. Even though we’ve got about 110 beers, probably 50 of those will constantly be changing, so there’s always something exciting and new. 

It’s all about education. Most consumers are exposed to the big supermarket brands, and are buying the low/no versions of drinks from brands they recognise and trust. But then if they don’t enjoy those, they tend to write off the entire space of low/no. However, there are lots of great low/no drinks out there, which is why we always let our customers try things. All of our staff are very familiar with the products too, so we can really guide customers through our range. 

Being able to understand your customers is key. We take education very seriously, and we also make sure that our staff are the right fit. So we’ve tried to find people who are passionate, sober or sober-curious, but also have a huge amount of empathy, which is particularly important in a space like this where you have some customers who are really focusing on trying to change their lifestyle habits. 

For people new to low/no, we’d recommend trying adaptogenic drinks. They’re drinks that have active ingredients such as ashwagandha or lemon balm, so they can give you something besides flavour. There are drinks that can help you to feel relaxed, or ones that have a naturally high caffeine content for an energy boost. We also have a CBD beer on tap at the moment and it’s fantastic. 

The plan is to open a second location early next year. It’ll be exactly the same premise as the Brighton location. So far, we’ve been looking at properties in London, somewhere around the Old Street area – somewhere central and accessible – with the aim of opening around March 2024. We really just want to make it clear to consumers that there is a place where you can go and get the best low/no products