Chris Marshall is building a sober bar franchise

On a stretch of Austin’s eastside that features a popcorn cafe, vintage store, vegetarian soul food restaurant, and the city’s oldest black-owned barbecue joint, Chris Marshall has a drink waiting for me at his bar. And by drink, I mean not quite a drink. It’s a Rosemary and Ginger Mule. There’s no alcohol. There’s never alcohol in here.  

Marshall owns Sans Bar, an Austin-based alcohol-free bar, and has also hosted pop-ups in places like Los Angeles, Portland, and Kansas City. He’s a recovering alcoholic and a former counselor. Every Friday before he opens the bar, Marshall says, he thinks about former friends and patients who relapsed and didn’t make it.   

But he’s also focused on business. Sober bars, although they’ve been gaining attention in New York, have typically not worked in America, and Marshall wants to change that. His goal is to have a Sans Bar in every city and Sans Bar brand drinks in stores, to be the Starbucks for the sober-curious era.