With over 30,000 members in 90 countries, One Year No Beer (OYNB) is hell-bent on helping people examine their relationship with alcohol. Ex-bartender-turned-broker Ruari Fairbairns and business partner Andy Ramage have created a programme to help those who want to give up alcohol. Fairbairns spoke to Imbibe about how bartenders and venues can be the pioneers for change.
What were your drinking habits before starting OYNB?
I’m pretty passionate about this. I used to work in the bar industry in Ibiza and Edinburgh and it’s very much the culture to have fun and decompress, there would always be a drink. In the bar industry, some people don’t want a drink but feel like they have to. Since starting OYNB I no longer look at alcohol in the same way. Say I’m a brand ambassador, I believe I could be a very successful brand ambassador and not drink any alcohol. I don’t need to drink anymore.
Do you think society pushes us into drinking when we don’t want to?
When you say you don’t want to drink, most people tell you to piss off. I think an awful lot of that is tribalism. In our research, 93% of people have said they’ve had a drink then they didn’t want to. There is still this ridiculous peer pressure that doesn’t exist with other drugs. Nobody says ‘he’s so boring, he won’t have a latte’. While this peer pressure is still there, we want to eliminate that. I want to say to the bar industry, ‘look at this tidal shift because you’re slow to keep up with it.’ We’ve created a global community for people to press a reset button on their relationship with alcohol and enter into a feeling of belonging. This is a tribe you want to belong to.
How easy is it to give up alcohol for a year?
Firstly, we’ve never ask people to ‘give up’. It’s about gaining something – you’re giving up taking a poison. I drink as much as I want whenever I want, it’s not about abstinence, it’s about gaining clarity. Now, for me, it’s unbelievably easy. It takes working on yourself as there’s always a reason why people drink. That’s what takes work.
Is alcohol being demonised like smoking used to be?
Yes, and quite rightly. There are no positive side effects. When Dame Sally Davis reduced men’s recommended amount [in 2016], she started by saying there is no safe amount: forget about the demonising of it, there’s a real health issue. Put ‘alcohol’ into Google and you get the word ‘ethanol’ – it’s the most harmful drug in the world.
What’s the best way for bars to advocate not drinking?
In our programme we advocate people going to pubs and bars. I still want to socialise, it’s an incredibly important part of life. This is why we’re collaborative with the bar industry. We want to help society change and the answer is to be a leading bar or restaurant – we need more pioneers. Why not have an alcohol free night? Have a good band and celebrate the alcohol-free side, or [promote] alcohol-free drinks like ‘four drinks if you’re the driver’ – just imagine the PR around it.
Have you found alternatives like no-abv beers? Or have you veered away from the idea of alcohol completely?
We are 100% advocates of the no-abv market. The offering is good and is getting better. There is a huge selection of non-alcoholic beers, they’re just not in the bars. Come on guys! I can’t wait for people to really catch on, it’s going to be an exciting day when that happens. If you get to the end of a shift, get a Heineken 0.0, pour it into a pint glass. We call it ‘stealth drinking’ and it’s a stepping stone for people who want to mask the fact they aren’t drinking.
Is this a movement and if so, where will we be in a year?
I would love to see menus with half alcoholic and half non-alcoholic drinks on them. I can’t think of anything more fantastic. However, I know that paradigm shifts are very slow. I think, realistically, [in one year's time] we’ll be marginally better.
One Year No Beer is offering Imbibe readers a discount to take the challenge. Just enter the code 'IMBIBE25' to redeem it.