Where everyone knows your first name only? –
Sept. 8, 2020 – Texas began reopening its bars May 1, but instead of joining the many Texas bar owners packing customers in shoulder-to-shoulder, Marshall decided to pivot and find ways to share the Sans Bar experience in a virtual way—while creating a new revenue stream. “This is a space for wellness and community, and as much as we need community right now, we need wellness more,” Marshall says.
Marshall, 37, is a member of a number of communities that are each experiencing unprecedented pressures right now: Black men. Small business owners. Born-and-raised Texans. Recovering alcoholics. Leaders in the sober curious movement. With each conversation and connection, he’s finding ways to navigate a path that makes sense for himself and for the future of his business. Sans Bar has been holding monthly Sans Bar Where You Are online events that have been attracting hundreds of attendees (the April event attracted more than 250 people). After buying tickets in advance ($25 plus shipping), guests receive event kits that include ingredients for that night’s featured mocktail, as well as other items to enhance the experience. A recent Pride-themed event included all the ingredients for the evening’s drink (recipe card, bottle of DRY Soda, simple syrup from Portland Soda Works, and a fresh lime), rainbow Pride tattoos, and even a QR code for the evening’s Spotify playlist, printed on what looked like a mini LP. “The idea is that the elements in the box will engage all your senses,” Marshall says.
He and his team have been working to make sure the evenings are well worth the attendees’ time. “We’ve been successful at taking these virtual gatherings to the next level,” Marshall says. The June meeting included live music, spoken word, and a panel that included the executive director of Seattle Pride, Krystal Marx. Marshall prides himself on creating a “fun, festive feeling” at his virtual events. Viewers from home are invited to make the drink of the night together, and the panels always include a Q&A from the audience. An event with the New York–based sobriety/recovery nonprofit BIGVISION Foundation featured a DJ and a dance party. “It was nothing like a Zoom meeting, I can assure you,” Marshall comments.