DJ turns tables on booze with ‘sober clubbing’ in Glasgow

Ronnie Whittaker, organiser of sober clubbing events in Glasgow, was turned down by almost 20 clubs he asked to host his alcohol-free evening. In a few years, he says, their responses are likely to be very different.

DJ and events organiser Ronnie Whittaker hosts a sober clubbing event

Glasgow is famous for its drinking, so it may come as no surprise that DJ and events organiser Ronnie Whittaker struggled to find a home for his sober club night. Whittaker, a 44-year-old Glaswegian with a background in electronic dance music (EDM), has hosted “conscious dance” events in the city for two years, but hit barriers when looking to stage a larger scale club night.

The club night will now take place next month at 300 capacity music venue Ivory Blacks, but Whittaker believes it will be a very different story when looking for venues in a few years. The rise of clean living, he says, has increased demand for a night on the dancefloor without the booze.

So are attitudes to clubbing without alcohol set to change? “No doubt about it,” Whittaker says. “It’s the reason why I’m putting in the effort to continue on within the shadow of doubting and cultural norms. There are so many people who are being lit up by it.”

Whittaker believes most of the venues turned him down because they thought they wouldn’t make any money on the bar, but there’s no reason why sober clubbing can’t be profitable he believes.

“We operate a health bar,” he says, “so instead of alcoholic drinks we serve non-alcoholic drinks. People are going to buy drinks and they can be priced at a similar level to any other beverage.” The health bar offers raw cacao drinks, energiser smoothies and drinks mixed with guarana powder to give revellers a mild alcohol-free high.

Ronnie Whittaker outside music venue Ivory Blacks who will host a sober clubbing night next month

Whittaker himself is not anti-drink. “I just never get round to drinking,” he says. “If I feel like it I’ll drink a beer and I don’t scorn anyone who drinks.” He wanted to provide an alcohol-free clubbing alternative because while alcohol “does lower people’s inhibitions, it’s not a sustainable fix”.

The events have become a safe space for social anxiety sufferers and Whittaker has a close relationship with the Scottish Recovery Consortium for recovering alcoholics.

Sober clubbing has proven popular with fitness fanatics, students and meditation enthusiasts, and he plans to expand beyond Glasgow to Edinburgh, Stirling and Newcastle. He claims his events are easily on a par with regular clubbing. In fact “they’re even more electric,” he says, and still play the same “banging techno and house” that clubbers expect.

Are we likely to see a cluster of sober clubbing events take off over the next few years? Only time will tell.

Click here to find out more about sober clubbing and book tickets to the Ivory Blacks club night on 25 February.

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