Awake, Denver’s first “sober” bar, will close temporarily

The bar will close after August 21 as its owners look for a new space.
5 min. read
Chelsie Kipp mixes up a “honeybee sage” at Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House. Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Awake, Denver's first "sober" bar, will be temporarily closing, according to owner Billy Wynne.

August 21 will be the bar's last day of business for now, but Wynne said it won't be the last time Awake's doors open to customers.

"We're excited to press pause and figure out a new approach that'll be best for Awake in the long run," Wynne said. "We have a lot of new ideas...and we just need a bigger space, bigger team and honestly more capital to really build out these new opportunities."

Wynne and his wife Christy opened Awake in November 2020. The coffee shop and bar is currently in Jefferson Park at 2240 Clay St. on the ground level of the RiverClay Condominiums.

Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House founders Christy and Billy Wynne stand in their Jefferson Park cafe. Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Wynne said the main reason for the temporary closure is the need for a new and bigger location. Awake's current location is on the smaller side, both in the front of the house and in the back. Wynne said the size of the kitchen limits what Awake can serve patrons. With the residents above, Awake also had to closely monitor noise levels.

The couple hopes their new space is large enough to accommodate more people for live shows and other events. They also hope to have a separate space to sell and showcase their products, like a boutique bottle shop. Besides the size of the bar, they want the location to be in an area with more foot traffic and better parking.

But first, Wynne said they're looking for investors to help fund the endeavor and to assist in operations.

"We're not necessarily A-List restaurateurs," Wynne said. "I'm probably not the right person to optimize the bar and restaurant experience at Awake...You have to be really nailing in every aspect of the business to thrive... and that's what we want! That's part of the purpose for this pause. The core purpose is we do think we need a different space to accommodate these different features but we also need new leadership and new investment to make Awake all it can be."

Chelsie Kipp works the bar at Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House. Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In 2019, the Wynnes realized that their relationship with alcohol was no longer viable, so they decided to get sober, right around the time Heineken released a non-alcoholic beer. Soon, they noticed that a sober community was forming as more and more non-alcoholic products appeared in stores. So the couple decided to open Awake.

The Wynnes previously said some of their products, such as their tequilas and wine, mimic the taste of their alcoholic counterparts, while some of their drinks are herbal mixes. During the day, Awake serves coffee from Queen City Collective Coffee and baked goods from Aspen Baking Company.

The bar had a slow start due to the pandemic. The Wynnes officially opened Awake in November 2020, but they mainly focused on the coffee and bottle shop portion of the business. In May 2021, they officially opened the bar, becoming Denver's first and only "sober" bar. Wynne said since the opening, Awake has fostered some loyal and spirited patrons.

A "honeybee sage" ready for sipping at Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House. Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"We're very passionate about normalizing alcohol-free living," Wynne said. "Whether people are in recovery or they are choosing to drink less or not at all for health reasons or well being reasons...we take a lot of pride in how we've supported this broad community and we really want this to continue."

However, Awake isn't immune to what most businesses are dealing with in terms of inflation and staffing issues. But again, Wynne said the operational side of the bar and restaurant, along with the space, is what's really holding Awake back.

It's unclear when Awake will reopen. Wynne said once investors are secured, they can begin looking for either a new space to build out or an existing space to change. He said ideally he'd love to be open for dry January, but the Wynne's don't want to rush things.

"You need a lot of different tools in the kit to succeed," Wynne said. "We have to be flexible in the nearterm... We're hopeful things will fall into place soon but we have to let things be what they're going to be. We're going to take our time to make sure we have the right pieces in place to come back better than before."

Fixings for nonalcoholic cocktails behind the bar at Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Until the closing date, the entire bar and the bottle shop merchandise will be 40 percent off.

Wynne said all of the August calendar events will still go on, including a live concert on August 20 in partnership with The Phoenix, a gym that promotes sobriety through physical wellness.

Another event, in partnership with Mobilize Recovery and Shamebooth, on September 9, will also still take place.

"For Christy and I, we are so incredibly grateful for the warmth and the openness and the enthusiasm that the Denver community has embraced Awake with," Wynne said. "So many people have enjoyed the welcomeness and the inclusivity and belonging of this space where there's no alcohol. Whatever happens, that's made all of this infinitely worthwhile. We're taking this pause to make sure we can come back and give the community what it deserves, the best possible alcohol-free bar that we can create."

"Together we wake up." Awake Sober Bar and Coffee House. Dec. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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