The popularity of practicing a sober lifestyle is on the rise in Denver. More individuals are reaching for NA beer, wines and mock spirits in hopes of gaining a fresh perspective on the idea of social drinking. This custom welcomes a new kind of watering hole and Awake Denver is one that is truly ahead of the curve. Co-founders Billy and Christy Wynne recently closed Awake 1.0 to create a healthier and intentional atmosphere for the sober (and sometimes sober) people of the Denver community.
The power couple that are Billy and Christy Wynne decided that drinking was no longer serving a positive purpose for them about three and a half years ago. “This was right when the alcohol-free movement and market shift was really starting to take off. So we were really seeing a rapidly growing abundance of alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits. It was lucky,” Billy remembered. “We wanted to participate in it from a community perspective but also kind of introducing people to these flavors and experiences that were available to them now.” After deciding they wanted to open a bar to mimic this idea, they leaned into the idea of creating a new home for the social activities that go with drinking. “We really wanted to provide the full array of the bar experience — several different spirits to choose from, a nice selection of wine, a wide-ranging selection of beer from your light lagers to heavy stouts, and live music and events. Those types of things,” he explained.
Awake 1.0 opened for full service on Mother’s Day weekend of 2021. The place flooded with patrons and the good reviews started piling in. A community soon formed and with it came a sense of appreciation for this venue. “What we felt the most was the connection from the community and the sense of shared gratitude and celebration for this type of space. It made it so making an alcohol-free choice, whether it’s for the night or for the rest of your life, it is a joyful or positive thing rather than feeling like it’s a sacrifice,” Billy notes. The Wynnes want to continue pursuing this spirit within Awake 2.0, while also ushering in some new updates and positive changes.
Restaurateur and renowned mixologist Adam Hodak has followed the Awake story from the beginning. After Awake closed, Hodak reached out to inquire about what he could do to help and on September 12 he was named CEO of this new branch of enterprise. “They did a great job with version 1.0, so it’s really picking up where they left off. I see myself bringing to the table more efficiencies — elevating the experience. Not that Awake 1.o didn’t have great cocktails, but just really honing in and creating an ample experience that hits on all cylinders,” Hodak explained.
The main reason for the closure was to find a larger location that was more centrally located, so Awake would be able to serve more of our population. The team also wants to dive into other branches of Awake by executing a wellness brand and a hospitality component with this new post. “We are looking to go into a line of products under the Awake Wellness brand that we are super excited about. Adam has experience there that’s going to help us do that. We are looking at things like herbal additives and also just our own line of ready-to-drink beverages,” Billy stated. Along with creating their own boozeless line of libations, this bunch is looking to work hand-in-hand with other bars to give patrons a wider range of options. “Another brand of this is just our hospitality business — we are going to be helping traditional bars build out their alcohol-free options. I mean, it’s just a missed opportunity. The demand for those products is growing and so we just want to help bars thoughtfully and creatively expand their options in that regard,” Billy said.
When talking with Hodak more about the expansion, he touched on an interesting point — parking. “Awake 1.0 was in an odd section of Jeff Park where parking is really limited. I owned multiple bars and restaurants and never once was parking a part of our business model. And then I started to realize, yeah parking is a big deal because everyone drives because they’re not drinking. That’s not something that you traditionally think of when you’re building a bar but hey, parking is really important,” Hodak said. The new location will be easier to find and easier to park at. This will serve as the ideal situation for the events and live music that Awake wants to execute — ones that you would regularly see at traditional bars.
The team is hoping to find a location and be up and running just in time for dry January, but at this point, they have yet to land on a location and timeframe. They are motivated by a clear and direct message — to provide a space for Denverites to enjoy a sober lifestyle. “Something that I really look forward to for Awake 2.0 is it being more centrally located and just sort of anyone who comes in can realize that you know, cutting back on something does not mean you have to remove it. You can just cut back. You can fold in these nights and be healthier for that. Offering an adult space for people to enjoy that is really something I’m looking forward to,” Billy said.