Alcohol-free spirits and beer shop opens amid pandemic

They look like bottles of wine and liquor but the bottles and cans on offer at Spirited Away are all booze-free.

"The idea came from my enjoyment of these spirits, and I thought it was hard to find them," said owner Douglas Waters, who opened Spirited Away on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in November.

It seemed like a risky move during a pandemic that's literally driven people to drink, in some cases nearly 20% more, according to one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

But Waters saw an opening.

"It's a little bit of a crazy time to open a new business but I do think it's a time, or this year has been a time when a lot of people are reconsidering habits," Waters said. "And for me, drinking less was one thing I was considering — and I don't think I'm alone."

Spirited Away is New York City's first zero-proof bottle store. Waters said he's been well received, especially coming off of "Dry January," when many people try to jumpstart their new year's resolutions by ditching alcohol.

Martha Duke, a member of the local Sober Mom Squad, is just glad to finally have a store like this to shop at.

"A lot of people are examining their relationship with alcohol," Duke said. "And these alternatives aren't something that was around when I got sober three years ago, so I'm definitely excited."

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The offerings range from bitters and sodas to alcohol-free chardonnays and virgin marys — a little something for everyone, even those who do drink.

"It's nice to include people who don't want to have a drink by adding to your bar cart a few nonalcoholic options," Waters said.

Spirited Away is offering delivery just to the local area downtown for now but hopes to expand in the coming months.

Spirited Away | 153 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002 |