Columbus, OH

Childhood friends set to open Columbus’ first sober bar

The Lantern
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Colin Thomas (left) and David Payne (right) are the owners of The Dry Mill, Columbus’ first sober bar. Credit: Tyrik Hutchinson-Junior | Lantern Reporter

The first sober bar in Columbus is set to open in February after a year of planning, development and lots of community support.

The Dry Mill is a sober bar located at 79 S. 4th St. that will serve food and nonalcoholic beverages. Owners David Payne and Colin Thomas said they have been friends since middle school and are both sober after struggling with alcoholism in the past. Thomas said they want the bar to serve as a useful resource for those who are also trying to get sober.

“We thought about the things we didn’t have when we were trying to get sober,” he said. “We didn’t have anywhere to go, so we want to give that environment to people.”

Although the primary inspiration for Payne and Thomas was to give back to the sober community, Payne said they welcome all patrons.

“We’ve had women who are pregnant who are excited to come here,” Payne said. “They will be able to have fun without worrying about drinks getting spilled on them.”

The Dry Mill is meant to be more than just a business. Thomas said he and Payne hope to foster a familial environment where everyone feels comfortable and supported.

“Not everyone that walks in that door may need help, but if they need help then they’ll have that help here,” Thomas said. “If we don’t help them then we are failing them and ourselves.”

Although drinking is considered a common activity among people in their 20s, Payne and Thomas said they still believe a sober bar can be successful among the college crowd.

“We have had college students reach out who are excited about the concept,” Thomas said. “It can be hard for college students who don’t drink, so this is a place where they will not be pressured to drink.”

The Dry Mill Facebook page currently has over 6,000 likes. This support they have received on social media helped them continue to pursue their goal of opening the bar, Payne said.

“The support from the community is the reason why we are here,” Payne said. “Our Facebook page suddenly went from 400 followers to 800 in just hours. That really lit the fire.”

Payne said they will use social media to promote special events going on at the bar such as live music, trivia and comedy nights. Although The Dry Mill is already active on Facebook and Instagram, Payne said several of its employees are excited for the bar to also make a name for itself on TikTok.

The main goal for the duo over the next year is to continue to grow the business and help those who are trying to get sober, the owners said.

“Hopefully we can get a bigger space and expand,” Thomas said. “The end game is to be successful in maintaining the business and helping those who need it.”

People of any age will be welcome in The Dry Mill during the day, but individuals must be 18 or older to enter at night in order to maintain a bar-style environment.

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