The Rise of Sober-Inclusive Spaces with Ryan Vet

Sober-Inclusive Spaces and the traditional networking scene, with its implicit expectation of alcohol consumption, can be daunting. For individuals navigating the challenges of alcohol use, the omnipresence of alcoholic beverages at professional gatherings can turn these events from potential career milestones into arenas of anxiety and temptation.

The significance of crafting sober-inclusive spaces transcends mere accommodation—it’s about changing the narrative around social and professional interaction to embrace a broader, more inclusive definition of inclusivity.

We sat down with Speaker, Author, Sommelier, and Event Coordinator – Ryan Vet to talk about his journey in entrepreneurship, personal choice, and alcohol consumption. Ryan Vet, who chose not to drink until he was 21, shares his nuanced journey and how that decision impacted his business ventures and social experiences.


Having been raised in a household where alcohol was nearly taboo, Ryan found himself relatively unprepared for the societal norms surrounding alcohol. Despite his later involvement in the beverage industry, including opening a coffee shop and wine bar, Ryan consistently emphasizes the values of personal limits and accountability. ‘I’ve had to learn that… I have a limit, and this is the most I’ll have a day,’ Ryan reveals, underscoring the need for personal responsibility when it comes to alcohol consumption.

The conversation highlights the societal pressures to network with a drink in hand, but it also offers an optimistic look at changing these norms. Ryan and Margy Schaller ponder the term ‘sober wingmen’ as a nod to those who support sober choices in social settings. ‘It’s freeing knowing that you’re not carrying that burden alone,’ Ryan remarks, advocating for open discussions about personal struggles with alcohol.

One of the standout moments in the episode was Ryan’s reflection on his business approach, which includes intentionally setting higher prices on alcoholic beverages to moderate consumption and foster an inclusive environment.

‘We want anyone to feel welcome,’ he emphasizes, revealing that the ethos of his bar is centered around the three E’s: experience, environment, and education.

Ryan’s personal path, from his decision to abstain from alcohol before the age of 21 to his career in various beverage industries, offers insights into staying accountable while navigating an alcohol-prevalent culture. His experience is a testament to the possibility of carving out a successful career in the hospitality industry without succumbing to overindulgence in alcohol.

The episode doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the potential pitfalls of alcohol, the silent struggles many face, and the importance of healthy conversations. ‘We all have our things,’ Ryan admits, ‘but it’s important because we do live in a world where [alcohol] is so prevalent and easy.’

Listeners are left with powerful messages and the championing call for inclusive environments in professional settings. Ryan’s participation in the podcast serves as an inspirational narrative for both those in the sober community and those who choose to drink responsibly.

Crafting Sober-Inclusive Spaces: The Key to Healthier Networking

In a world where the clink of glasses often punctuates the end of successful meetings and networking events, the movement toward creating sober-inclusive spaces is not just a nod to wellness trends but a crucial step in fostering environments that respect and support everyone’s journey, including those for whom alcohol is a no-go zone.

Why Sober-Inclusive Spaces Matter

For many, the decision to abstain from alcohol is not just a lifestyle choice but a necessity. Whether due to health reasons, personal preference, or the journey to recovery, the presence of alcohol can be isolating and, for some, a direct threat to their sobriety. The expectation to drink to fit in or seal a deal can be an undue pressure that not only alienates but also potentially harms individuals who are vulnerable.

The stigma attached to not drinking—often marred by misconceptions of being ‘less fun’ or ‘uptight’—can hinder genuine connections. Networking and professional environments should champion the sharing of ideas and professional synergy over shared drinks. We can open the door to more authentic interactions, free from the haze of alcohol, where all participants can feel comfortable, respected, and valued.

Choosing not to drink might be more normal than you think. These people don’t drink. 

How To Create Sober-Inclusive Networking Events

  • Diverse Beverage Options: Offer an array of interesting non-alcoholic options. This goes beyond just having water or soda available. Non-alcoholic beers, sophisticated mocktails, and artisanal juices can make those who choose not to drink feel considered and included.
  • Normalize Choice: Make it clear in event invitations and signage that a range of drink options, including non-alcoholic choices, are equally part of the event’s offerings. This subtle but powerful gesture can help normalize sobriety in professional settings.
  • Focus on Activities and Themes: Design events around activities or themes that don’t center alcohol as the main attraction. Whether it’s a workshop, a speaker series, or interactive group activities, focusing on the content of the event rather than the beverages fosters more meaningful engagement.
  • Provide Context and Support: For events organized by or for those in recovery, offering context about why diverse drink options are available can be empowering. Additionally, having a designated quiet space where attendees can take a moment for themselves can be a thoughtful inclusion.

The Impact of Sober-Inclusive Spaces

The benefits of sober-inclusive networking events extend beyond accommodating non-drinkers. They promote healthier choices, encourage mindful engagement, and can even lead to more productive and meaningful professional interactions. When the social pressure to drink is removed, attendees can focus more on the purpose of the event—be it learning, connecting, or celebrating achievements.

Moreover, by championing inclusivity, organizations and event planners signal their commitment to wellness and respect for individual choices. This not only enhances their reputation but also contributes to a cultural shift towards more mindful and inclusive professional environments.

The push for sober-inclusive spaces in professional settings is more than a wellness trend—it’s a necessary evolution (and booming business market) in how we define and approach networking and professional gatherings. By making these spaces more inclusive, we acknowledge and respect the diversity of experiences and choices among professionals, fostering environments where everyone can thrive, connect, and succeed on their terms. In doing so, we pave the way for a more inclusive, supportive, and health-conscious professional landscape.


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