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Sober And Sold-Out: Dance Club In Sweden Cuts Booze For A Night

Breathalyzers were placed in the doorway of a nightclub in Stockholm this weekend, with an unusual purpose: to ensure no guests had been drinking alcohol. It was all part of a plan for a booze-free night out called Sober, where staff were also on the lookout for anyone who seemed to be on drugs.

The plan for a club in a hip Stockholm neighborhood to host a monthly alcohol-free night created a buzz, if you will, when it was announced by comedian Mårten Andersson last month. And it seems to have been a hit, with nearly 900 people packing the sold-out venue to hear DJs on two separate dance floors and sip boozeless cocktails, faux beer and sham Champagne.

According to a reporter who went to the club Friday night, the Sodra Theatre filled up early, with an eclectic crowd checking out music by Zoo Brazil, the Bee Gees and others.

"The crowd was much more diverse than you get at most European club nights," Maddy Savage writes for Sweden's The Local, "with curious teenagers joining former alcoholics in their fifties, clean-living yogis and breastfeeding mothers in their thirties."

Speaking to Vice about Sober last month, Andersson explained that he got the idea for Sober after he stopped drinking. He wanted more people to try it — particularly in Sweden, where he said people spend too much time getting hammered.

"I've been sober for six months," Andersson said. "It's great — I've never felt better. I'm so much calmer these days. I feel better, I look better, and my self-esteem has never been this high. I'm proud of myself in a way I've never been before."

In The Local, Savage reports that while many people seemed to be having fun, at least a few people were having second thoughts.

"People don't usually dance when they are sober, so it is like an awkward social experiment," a young man named Maximillian said.

"A lot of guys here in Sweden are kind of shy when they are not drinking," his friend Hampus added.

Perhaps those guys will benefit from the type of contemplation Andersson encourages.

"The idea of SOBER is not only that there should be a club where you do not drink alcohol but something deeper than that," Andersson wrote in a blog post on the event's website. "We want to ultimately get people to drop their autopilot and take the time to stop and think about what you actually want out of life."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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