Downtown Athens has an estimated amount of 80 bars in one square mile. University of Georgia alumnus Sean Goldsmith has created a city guide catering to less typical bar-goers — nondrinkers.
Goldsmith started The Zero Proof with a high school friend to help make it easier for non-drinkers to navigate social settings.
Goldsmith began exploring the non-alcoholic drinking scene after quitting alcohol last December.
As a former business executive overseeing employees and dealing with stress, Goldsmith noticed himself relying on alcohol to self-medicate, even if that didn’t mean drinking in excess. It started with a decision to quit drinking for a week after a weekend trip that left him lethargic. One week quickly became two weeks, then a month and is now almost a year.
“Everything is a little easier, handling stress is easier,” said Goldsmith. “I became a better manager. I was thinking more clearly and had more energy.”
The Zero Proof’s goal is not to discourage people from drinking, but to provide options for people that choose not to drink, Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith, who graduated from UGA in 2005, knew he wanted to make a guide for Athens after moving back to Georgia from New York City, where he worked in finance for 15 years before leaving his job to pursue this passion project. The Zero Proof’s Athens list includes restaurants such as Seabear Oyster Bar and drink makers such as Cherokee Moon Mixology.
“Athens is a creative town, for a small town it’s really on the forefront of a lot of trends,” said Goldsmith.
Goldsmith, who spent his undergraduate years here, said drinking is a normal part of the college experience and that The Zero Proof does not aim to stop binge drinking in college.
“It’s about painting the zero proof lifestyle with a different brush. It is fun, and there are options,” said Goldsmith.
Goldsmith said The Zero Proof does not aim to be a resource for recovering alcoholics. While he is not opposed to working with programs helping recovering alcoholics, he does not view himself as an expert in recovery and believes there are other, better-equipped organizations that are already working to help recovering alcoholics.
The Zero Proof aims to promote the idea that “being zero-proof” can still be fun and that there are options, Goldsmith said. That’s why Goldsmith and his friends decided to create guides to help non-drinkers in different cities — so they can find places to go out and enjoy themselves without drinking.
The Zero Proof founders have created guides for cities ranging from Boston to Istanbul. The guides are currently only for places that they themselves visit or places where they have contacts on the ground. After doing research to identify restaurants and bars with “mocktail” and non-alcoholic craft beer offerings, the founders or their contacts vet the locations before including them in the guide.
Currently, the team is working on creating guides for more cities in the Southeast and hope to expand their list of cities as well as do a deeper “round two” on cities for which they already have guides.
Although the guides are just a passion project as of right now, Goldsmith believes the guides could become a profitable business in the future.
Goldsmith recognizes the demand for alcohol but believes there is a growing sector of people who want to explore other options and that The Zero Proof will be a good resource for those people.
He also thinks the project will appeal to business owners.
“People are willing to pay, in larger cities, for a $12 mocktail,” said Goldsmith. “You can make money selling juice for $12.”
Seeing people pay attention to the sober scene and get innovative with their drink offerings has excited Goldsmith.