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The Zero Option: Hackney gets a booze-free pop-up shop

PUBLISHED: 14:22 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 30 January 2019

The Zero Option is open on Hackney Road until the end of February.

The Zero Option is open on Hackney Road until the end of February.

Archant

As Dry January finally comes to a close, two brothers have opened a shop stocked with a range of 200 no-and-low alcoholic drinks. The Zero Option is a temporary opening for now, but there are plans to go permanent.

Brothers Tim and Phil Coles are behind the pop-up shop.Brothers Tim and Phil Coles are behind the pop-up shop.

As an impressionable teenager, squeezed in to a dingy student house playing drinking games on a Tuesday night, it seemed to me that consuming alcohol was directly linked with everyone’s idea of having fun.

Polishing off a bottle of wine each at pre-drinks was nothing unusual. Necking a pint while an impatient taxi driver hovered outside, ready to whisk you in to town for further cheap booze, was a standard event.

Of course, I’ve since found that this peer pressure and expectancy to drink extends well beyond student digs and union bars.

“Society suggests that drinking alcohol is normal and if you don’t do it there is something wrong with you,” suggests Tim Coles, co-founder of The Zero Option.

Crowds inside The Zero Option for a sparkling wine tasting on Sunday January 20.Crowds inside The Zero Option for a sparkling wine tasting on Sunday January 20.

“But with youngsters in particular, something like a third of millenials don’t drink or don’t want to drink – so there is a clash of mindset.

“With The Zero Option, we are on a mission to help people discover that there is a big choice of non-alcoholic drinks out there.

“We aren’t evangelical in any way – I drink moderately myself – but we’re about offering choice and letting people decide from a selection of alcohol-free drinks which nobody has put together before.”

The Zero Option stocks around 200 beers, ciders, aperitifs, wines and spirits with a 0.5 per cent ABV or less.

Sample drinks available at The Zero Option include Real Kombucha and SeedlipSample drinks available at The Zero Option include Real Kombucha and Seedlip

The shop, which plans to host regular free tasting sessions, also fronts a distinctive and unusual range of soft drinks.

“This is our second shop, after our first pop-up was very well received nearer our homes in Buckinghamshire,” adds Tim.

“People were amazed at the selection we put together. They are frustrated in pubs and bars at the lack of choice for non-drinkers, there was a universal amazement – people saying ‘I didn’t realise this choice was available, is this really all non-alcoholic?’

“At our shop, we actively encourage people to try the drinks before they buy, with the exception of sparkling wines, as they can go flat.

“Letting people sample the drinks helps overcome the historical scepticism (towards alcohol-free alternatives).”

The Zero Option is a joint venture from Tim Coles and his brother, Phil. The duo decided to open a pop-up stall in Marlow before Christmas, spurred on by their experience of importing and distributing Pimento, a spicy ginger-beer.

“In late-October, we decided to trial it.

“Because we’ve attended a few Club Soda non-alcoholic festivals (a brand striving to achieve “a world where nobody has to feel out of place if they’re not drinking”) we knew lots of people who are supplying alcohol-free drinks, but nobody was pulling them all together in one physical location.

“I was able to source about 200 non-alcoholic drinks, and we had a good experience pre-Christmas. We then chose to roll the concept on to a more urban, London location.”

The first ever Dry January took place in 2012 with an estimated 4,000 people taking part. Six years later, 4 million had committed to giving up booze for the month, suggesting that an alcohol-free life is becoming more palatable for a lot of people. But what factors stop others from joining in?

Tim reasons: “I think for a lot of people, drinking alcohol is habitual.

“Because of society, stress, the lives we lead and the easy availability of it, drinking just becomes a routine.

“It’s all too easy to get home and have not just a glass of wine, but to finish the whole bottle. There’s a sort of inertia in it.

“A lot of people are seeing the benefits (of Dry January) and saying ‘If I can do it for January, I can do it for the whole year.’

“We aren’t advocating people to stop completely, we’re just saying that you don’t have to drink all the time and to excess – because there are a lot of interesting alcohol-free drinks out there.”

The Zero Option, 61 Hackney Road, E2 7NX. The shop opens daily from 12pm to 7pm. More info on Twitter @ZeroOption

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