After 10 Years of Sobriety, This Guy Opened a Bar That Doesn’t Serve Alcohol

Vanessa Etienne
·1 min read

CHRIS MARSHALL, 38, had been sober from alcohol for ten years when he decided to open a bar. His spot, Sans Bar, in Austin, lacks one thing: booze.

As the only Black kid in a primarily white neighborhood, Marshall discovered in high school that drinking was an easy way for him to fit in. The same went for college fraternity life.

But fitting in didn’t mean strong bonds, and he says alcohol became his self-medication for anxiety and depression. After dropping out of school, Marshall says his life began to spiral out of control until he checked into rehab at age 23 and found sobriety and connection.

Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

Alcoholism festers in isolation. Following a decade in recovery, he opened Sans Bar, a place that could bring together people who choose not to drink. In fact, he says they seem to connect on a deeper level, both with one another and with him behind the counter.

Here’s what he’s learned.

1. Listen with your whole self.

True conversation takes place away from screens. Even if your smartphone is facing down on a table, pocket it. And sit in a section of the bar or restaurant where a TV isn’t in view.

2. Tell people you are listening.

“That can sound like just an ‘okay’ or ‘I hear you,’” Marshall says. Brief interjections let the person know you’re engaged and encourage them to continue. Silence often doesn’t.

3. Don’t “fix.”

“Listening is not about curing or diagnosing,” he says. “It’s about being present. That can feel daunting, but there’s so much healing in the ability to have someone listen to you.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Men's Health.

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