City Limits Volume Five: The Night

Our fifth edition of City Limits sees us exploring cities after dark.
As the normality of daylight fades away, we investigate ‘sleeponomics’,
the clampdown on clubs, sober drinking, and the semiotics
of the nocturnal city.


The city at night sends our imaginations into overdrive. There’s fun, magic and mystery to be had. But also, lurking in the shadows – of our minds, at least – there is risk and danger. Either way, cities after dark have long held us in thrall of what can occur when the normality of day fades away. But while that hasn’t changed, plenty else has. Not least, what we mean by the night time economy – once a narrow and specific area of commerce; now one that’s growing and diversifying at pace.

Quite a topic, then, for us to tackle in the latest edition of City Limits, our ongoing exploration of the urban experience, as the Crowd DNA team – plus friends from our KIN network of creators and connectors – step into the night to investigate.

Touch points include the clampdown on bars and clubs that’s impacting on many cities. But also the rise of the sober curious night out. Elsewhere, we get a view on what’s making night culture tick in the buzzing environs of Lagos, Cape Town and Seoul. We decipher the semiotics in how brands leverage the nocturnal city. And with all of the smart innovations currently intersecting with how we catch forty winks, a foray into the night would not be complete without checking in on ‘sleeponomics’.

Whichever city you call home, by day and by night, we hope you enjoy…

Andy Crysell, group managing director, Crowd DNA

Fight For Your Right (To Party)

Sydney’s nightlife has been subjected to prohibition-style regulation for the last five years. As the government prepares to review its ‘lockout laws’, we explore their effect on the city’s night culture

Australian’s carry an identity as boozy larrikins – and it’s true, they love a good time. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of this either; take the late PM Bob Hawke, immortalised in the Guinness Book Of Records in 1954 for downing 2.5 pints in 11 seconds. Hawke – and his love of a pint – was the inspiration behind the new Hawke’s Brewing Co, a brand that follows in his footsteps by ‘brewing great beer, and great things for Australia’. 

And yet, for the past five years, the country’s booze capital has been placed under prohibition-style regulation, via the aptly named Sydney lockout laws. The TLDR version is that, following a spate of alcohol fuelled violence, the city’s nightlife haunts were put under indefinite curfew. The new rules turned the once buzzing Kings Cross area into a ghost town during the early hours, forcing bottle shops to shut at 10.30pm (no late night runs to the bottle-o allowed!) and stopping re-entry into bars after 1.30am.

Whether or not these laws have ‘worked’ is still in debate. But the unavoidable truth is that a single minded focus on tackling violence at the expense of celebrating urban vibrancy has transformed Sydney’s night culture and economy. According to a 2019 Deloitte report, Sydney misses out on $16bn a year because its nightlife is underdeveloped, placing it at 3.8 percent of Australia’s economy vs six percent in the UK. 

The story of Sydney’s dwindling nightlife has recently been documented by prolific graffiti artist Anthony Lister in his exhibition Culture Is Over. Ironically held in the once infamous, now derelict, Kings Cross strip club Porky’s, Lister says the exhibition could be “a going away party for the culture in ‘the Cross’, or it could be a wake up party.” 

Jake Smyth, co-founder of Mary’s

Poor Tom’s Gin Distillery

Graffiti artist Anthony Lister

It’s not all gloomy, though, as, in line with Australia’s underdog mentality, a new Sydney is emerging from the ashes of the lockout laws. Firstly, there’s the predictable shift to the underground. As well known clubs became increasingly policed, Sydney experienced a ‘rave renaissance’. The makers behind collectives such as Soft Centre and Motorik borrowed elements from rave culture in cities like Amsterdam and Berlin to create experiential secret parties in warehouses and laneways with the promise of no lines, BYOB and, most importantly, freedom from Sydney’s newly acquired surveillance culture. 

There’s also been a surge in the number of independent breweries and distilleries, predominantly located in the city’s inner west (and therefore operating out of reach of the lockout laws). Brands like Young Henry’s, Willie The Boatman, Batch and Poor Tom’s all harness the subversive, experiential and inclusive spirit of craft; and arguably benefit from the fact the craft revolution took hold in Australia at a time when Sydney-siders were looking for ‘something else to do’ in the wake of the lockout laws.   

These homegrown brands have taken Sydney’s night culture into their own hands, and have played a key role in redesigning the city’s social landscape. Where bucks parties and work friends looking for a night out would have once queued up in ‘the Cross’, today they jump aboard minivans that loop around Marrickville’s craft breweries.

In a similar way, while the lockout laws have placed burdens on iconic nightlife establishments, they’ve also paved the way for new venues – and new nightlife occasions – to emerge. The curfews have catalysed the same shifts we’re seeing across other global cities, as consumers break free of the retox/detox binary. No longer looking to abstain or binge on alcohol, people are seeking balance within spaces that offer a more holistic, experiential environment. A perfect example of this is the opening of Scout Sydney, a far flung outpost of London’s revered bar, which adopts a mad-scientist approach to food and drink designed to create a sensorial experience, not just a boozy buzz.

Where bucks parties and work friends looking for a night out would have once queued up in ‘the Cross’, today they jump aboard minivans that loop around Marrickville’s craft breweries

Alongside these new venues and occasions, also comes new blood. Jake Smyth of Mary’s  burger joint x bar is one such cultural figurehead. At a time where moderation is rule of law, Mary’s continues to gain traction by celebrating gluttony and hedonism with their mantra, ‘Get Fat’. As Smyth’s empire grows, he’s become one of the voices for change in the face of the lockout, striving to return Sydney to the inclusive space it once was, where “scumbags and suits walk side-by-side, that’s Sydney to me. It’s the gutter and the fucking stars.” 

So now, five years after they were instigated, Sydney’s lockout laws are set to be reviewed in parliament, as debates once again flare around what it means to be an ‘Open, Global City’. So, if they are revoked, what next? 

The reality is that Sydney’s appetite for late night hedonism will be very different than when it was placed on shut down five years ago. Looking to the broader shifts influencing and shaping the night economy in other cities will provide a roadmap for the new Sydney creators. We can easily predict, for example, that brands within the mindful drinking space – such as low-no ABV Sobah – will have a great influence when reflecting the city’s new attitudes towards alcohol. 

Similarly, the rise of craft beer will likely extend organically to embrace natural wine production too, as bottle shops like P&V Wine+Liquor do so now (selling what they describe as ‘fancy piss’) and catering to elevated in-home drinking occasions. Within this context, encouraging people to leave their homes will require a much bigger draw than music, queues… and booze.

Night Signs

A city cloaked in darkness provides a whole new world of signs and symbols for brands to play with. We decode the semiotics of the night

The city at night is full of promise. As the everyday societal parameters of the daylight fade away, these urban centres still sprawl with nightlife – and not just the entertaining kind. While many sleep, others come alive and the way we see things changes as our senses sharpen. It becomes ripe with opportunity for fulfilling desires, chasing dreams and breaking rules – the darkness offering a layer of protection and secrecy. 

When we think of brands translating this moody, magical landscape, three categories spring to mind: perfume, alcohol and cars. Perhaps it’s because all three, in some shape or form, allude to the aspiration and fast-paced living we associate with cities. In analysing the semiotics of urban night time, it’s clear that these categories still dominate, but we also see themes of community, creativity and adventure coming through. Today’s visual codes show how the movement of light to dark propels us into new ways of seeing, and pushes us to challenge the safe familiarity of the day.

Together, Tonight

They say the city comes alive at night. Brands are fuelling a sense of community for those who power through the wee hours – be it dancing, drinking or working.

McDonald’s, #WeAreAwake
One of McDonald’s most memorable campaigns shows solidarity with the night bus riders, construction workers, new parents and party goers. The peaceful and soothingly sound-tracked ad shows us how life never stops in the city, and offers reassurance that the night isn’t a lonely place – even if you’re on your own.

Bacardí, Dance Floor
The city draws everyone to the party as Bacardí calls us to ‘rally our crew’. The rum is signalled as a unifying force that puts a spring in the characters’ steps – but we never see their faces. Instead, it’s purely the excitement of the night, and each other, that injects energy and personality into this anonymous community of urban fun-lovers.

Jameson’s, Bartenders’ Gathering
For one night, every year, 200 bartenders from around the world arrive in Dublin for the Jameson Bartenders’ Gathering. Night time in the Irish capital plays host to a programme of team bonding events, education and, most importantly, partying. The ad plays into the idea that Jameson’s whiskey offers all this to its drinkers, and that by choosing it you join an expert club of night owls.

The Art Of Darkness

Brands are positioning themselves as inspirational companions and collaborators, as the night’s darkness provides a safe haven for uninhibited creativity.

adidas Originals, Nite Jogger, Cities
In a film created by artists to launch adidas’ reflective running shoe, the sporting giant celebrates ‘night time creators’. The voiceover whispers that “we can be different people at night,” testing our identity and taking advantage of the empty stillness to let our ideas flow, before “returning the city to the masses.” The film’s pacey, collage quality reflects the multi-faceted nature of creativity, and the thrill of letting our minds run free across the night’s canvas.

Apple, Goodnight Developers
A black and white film shows a series of developers in the city working through the night, furiously coding. The glow of the computer screen is the only light in the footage, playing host to the creative genius of the developers. The monochrome footage, the soundtrack (I Guess I Should Go To Sleep), and the tagline ‘while the world sleeps, you dream’ creates a modern day, digital dreamscape of transformation.

Absolut: The Walk, Creative Poster Competition
Absolut’s call to arms for the next big, global artist follows a poster fixer walking through a New York-esque downtown at night, passing a series of Absolut’s historical posters and visiting bars as the decades tick on. The film visually links creativity with hedonistic pleasure – a rich, and well-trodden, territory for an alcohol brand. Neon lights, warm and welcoming bars filled with colour build a sense of opportunity for aspiring artists.

Heightened Senses  

With darkness descending, brands illustrate the exaggeration of our senses as the night becomes filled with promise and expectation. The night is often tied to lust and desire and, even today, the visual language surrounding it is often highly gendered.

Lexus UX 2019, New Horizons
From Rolls Royce to the Nissan Leaf, car adverts often depict the protagonist driving out of the city into the dawn, the urban landscape made surreal by the vehicle itself. Lexus’s UX commercial is no different. It tells its viewers ‘the more you look, the more you’ll see,’ as we’re taken on a sensorial journey through the city – lights flashing, rain splattering and secret trysts unfolding.

Johnnie Walker Black Label (Japan), Flavour Explosion
Johnnie Walker heavily relies on the ‘lady of the night’ trope, putting its characters into dated male-female roles. In a Japanese market street, a woman appears from a bar and seductively pours a gentleman a glass of whisky. As he goes to take a sip, the shots bring the viewer into a heightened awareness of sound, sight and flavour. The camera zooms in on the sound of the ice against the glass and the fruit on the stalls explode. When he’s finished, calmness descends as he tips his hat to the barmaid and she smiles knowingly.

Paco Rabanne, Pure XS For Her
Like many perfume ads, this Paco Rabanne campaign is set at night, and plays on a heightened sense of desire. The model Emily Ratajkowski (who, as a public figure, speaks openly about the politics of sexuality) is an Eve-like temptress who leaves a trail of devastated men behind her as she removes her clothing striding through a city mansion. The film finishes and starts with a golden snake wrapping itself around the perfume bottle, hinting further at a sense – or scent – of temptation.

Mythical Adventure

The night is a time for city dreamscapes and secret worlds, where the ordinary transforms into the extraordinary. Narratives take on an epic, legendary quality and enter the realms of mysticism.

Nytol, One A Night
As insomnia takes hold at bedtime in the city, our protagonist Cliff is transported on a weird and wacky journey through the inner workings of his own mind. The multiple scientists, sheep and electronics in the ad for Nytol reflect the many voices we have in our head, that can get louder with panic as we long for sleep. Only Nytol allows him to conquer these demons.

YSL, Black Opium
A light-filled Shanghai is the stomping ground of leather-clad models following the call of Black Opium perfume. They gather as a tribe, moving from rooftops, to fast cars to traversing across sky-high bridges into a secret party, always following the glittering lights. The advert paints the perfume as a route to exclusivity, excitement and adventure.

Bud Light, Kings War Room
Bud often uses medieval cities, day and night, for its adverts, turning drinkers into knightly characters. Here, the King talks directly to the viewer, making them a part of the story. As well as being humorous, this visual language implies that drinking Bud has transportative powers to take you on a fairytale adventure.

Cities after dark have long held us in thrall of what can occur when the normality of day fades away

Electric Dreams

Is smart tech the answer to an urban sleep loss epidemic? A $76bn ‘sleepenomics’ industry certainly thinks so…

Our cities might be edging towards a 24 hour, always-on lifestyle, but our bodies can’t necessarily keep up. The stress of urban living, constant stimulation and exposure to artificial light can trip the fuse of our circadian clocks, making it hard to power down at the end of the day. 

Concerns over a growing sleep crisis are pushing our need for shut-eye further up the wellbeing hierarchy. The sleep industry has moved away from reliance on prescription drugs into the age of wellness: prioritising routines, cutting out screens and encouraging sleep ‘hygiene’ to redress the balance. We want quick fixes that are data driven, but also have holistic health benefits. 

With the global ‘sleepenomics’ industry now valued at around $76bn, it’s worth taking a look at some of the tech companies promising a good night’s sleep for cranky city dwellers. 

The stresses of urban living can trip the fuse of our circadian clocks, making it

hard to power down

First up are those that encourage us to reconnect with our natural patterns. Following research into the effects of urban environments on our bodies, LYS was founded to ‘help the inhabitants of cities improve their sleep, alertness and mental wellbeing’. The clip on LYS button contains sensors that mimic the eye’s sensitivity to light, equipping users with data to counteract the effects of bright city lights on their physiological downtime. Similarly, virtual sleep clinic Circadia has developed a connected tracker, lamp and app trilogy to help users understand, and nail, their circadian biology. 

This focus on personal tracking is ubiquitous in the wellness industry. With FitBits, wearables and monitoring apps fulfilling our desire to access precise, self-optimisation data, sleep tech is a natural draw. The hours we spend asleep are like the deep sea of biohacking, and bedtime brands are keen to get involved. 

For example, smart mattresses like the Eight Sleep Pod carry out biometric tracking and on-the-fly temperature adjustments, calibrated to each user’s personal sleep habits. On a more portable scale, the Oura ring uses infrared to read key metrics while the wearer sleeps, linked to an app that turns out REM and resting heart rate analysis. These slightly sci-fi advances are letting people hack their biology even when they’re on standby mode, satisfying the demand for constant feedback on our bodies’ performance.

With FitBits, wearables and monitoring apps allowing people to access precise data to optimise their bodies, sleep tech is a natural draw

There is, however, sleep tech less focused on gathering data and more on instant gratification – the compelling idea of being able to buy a good night’s sleep. Designed for people suffering from stress related insomnia (hello, city friends), the Somnox is a robotic pillow that ‘breathes’ alongside you, with a paired app that creates customised breathing patterns to lull the user to sleep. Combined with the popularity of weighted blankets such as the Rocabi – also used to soothe insomnia, and described as ‘like being hugged by a tame Bengal tiger’ – we’re quite literally embracing the world of sleep tech.

Introducing your new friend, the Somnox Sleep Robot.

These accessories build on a nostalgic sense of security (think tech-bolstered versions of cuddly toys or comfort blankets) – and a growing trend for the blissful, childish abandon into self-care. The stigmatisation of napping during the day also comes into play here. Sleep start-up Caspar has created The Dreamery, a Manhattan oasis where you can rent a sleep pod for 45 minutes, complete with pyjamas, skincare samples and free coffee. The Dreamery follows the global surge in nap cafes like Siesta & Go in Madrid, Pop & Rest in London and the Nescafe Sleep Cafe in Tokyo, showing how intuitive, self-soothing behaviour is starting to gain favour over socially standardised etiquette. 

With so many products and solutions to common sleep problems, the night economy isn’t just about participating in our city’s nightlife; it spans into our private, standby time as well. As we continue to examine the effect that urban living has on our health, sleep is fast becoming a prime focus area for tech companies and brands jumping on the wellness wave.

One Night In...

We caught up with our KIN network in Lagos, Cape Town and Seoul to understand what makes their cities’ nightlife unique

Toye Sokunbi, Lagos

Toye produces The Native/Nativeland, a pop culture magazine and music festival with a focus on Afro-urban culture. We asked him to give us a glimpse into Lagos after nightfall.

The night is like a balm to the severity of the day. 
“Extreme affluence side by side with poverty; harsh conditions; mile-long traffic on failing infrastructure – there’s a lot to contend with during the day in Lagos. But, at night time, there’s a calmness that overcomes the struggle. Difficulties are washed over by a kaleidoscope of streetlights, silhouettes and the ocean stretching out from the shores of the city. Everything seems to stop in a moment in time. Even a packed club with bass pumping from the speakers feels like a reprieve.”

Lagosians love partying
“Nigeria has been getting a lot of global attention for its music, but the scene was blooming locally well before this, with lots of concerts and music festivals that run throughout the night. About a decade ago, these events were often overshadowed by the possibility of violence – but there’s been a visible increase in security and safety, especially for women.”

‘Girls’ Nights’ are (slowly) on the rise.
“Among the night time crowd there’s a gradual increase in the number of urban millennial women who are living away from home – but women in their twenties who live with their parents, and have to abide by a curfew, are still the norm. Despite this, there is a growing ‘Girls’ Night’ culture among women who are starting to own their own space in nightlife, outside the confines of marriage and committed relationships.” 

Lagos never really sleeps.
“This comes into full force during the holidays. The nights are longer, and the melting pot that is the city bubbles over with young Nigerians, expats and tourists. In the last few years there’s been a boom of Nigerian diaspora coming home to party during the Christmas and Easter holidays, and local event promoters are lining up to cater for the crowds.” 

Deciding where to go out can be tricky. 
“The mainland has places catering to cheap and cheerful thrills – The Shrine, for example, is a local concert arena built in memory of late Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and doubles as a pool bar (anyone who knows it knows you can openly roll a joint in the smoking area). Ikeja’s infamous Allen Avenue, meanwhile, is a business district of banks during the day, but at night it glows with neon lights pointing to strip clubs and ‘adult bars’ lined along the strip.

The rest of the mainland hosts themed restaurants, lounges and open bars, like Rhapsody’s, The Railway Compound, and Etuk’s Place. On the island, you’ll find the coolest partygoers in clubs like Kabaal and Utopia, and catch the late night crowd at popular clubs like Quilox, Escape and Cubana.” 

A lot of Nigerians unwind by partying.
“The way Nigerians let their hair down is changing with younger generations and the advent of social media. While it’s largely still confined to red light district subculture, the adult entertainment industry is growing in popularity and becoming a subject of fascination, among working class urban men and women alike. Over the years there’s been more open curiosity and less stigma around experimentation with drugs, too. Nigerians are quite laid back people, generally speaking – but nowhere parties like Lagos!”

Keenan Oakes, Cape Town

Musician Keenan works at two bars in the heart of the city bowl in Cape Town, catering to the gin aficionados. He lets us in on what happens in his city after dark.

The energy in Cape Town changes with the seasons. 
“Summer is relentless and beautiful; the city buzzes around the clock. Winters are still lively, but there’s a definite change from the wild summer nights.”

From day to night, there’s a definite shift.
“The night is full with a feeling of excitement after the working day, the notion that anything could happen. As a bartender, I see people open up more – they’re warmer, and more receptive; the banter changes, and conversations vary. There’s a sense of freedom, and that people have the chance to be more real when the sun goes down. The night time is full of creative energy – whether that’s seeing a great band or live act; going to a book launch, or an art show; or just looking out over the city lights from Table Mountain.”

The Gin Bar is a great place for dates. 
“The bar I work in is a beautiful place, so it’s often used as a date destination. It’s at the back of a chocolate shop, so it’s not just about drinking – couples often come to eat chocolate and drink coffee instead of getting drunk like they used to.”

People are starting to come together over First Thursday.
“An event that takes place (yep, you guessed it) on the first Thursday of every month sees all the art galleries across the city open for the night. People move from venue to venue taking in the art, drinking and swapping stories and opinions with strangers. The same founders started Museum Night, a similar concept that happens twice a year. It’s a chance to celebrate the plethora of amazing artists we have in Cape Town, both established and emerging.”

It’s true that the party scene is changing. 
“I’ve definitely noticed a lot of young people going out and choosing not to drink alcohol, but I’d still say that drinking culture is alive and well in Cape Town – for the moment.”

Cape Town is like one big house party. 
“Everyone knows everyone. The nightlife has a sense of familiarity – everyone is welcome. This is particularly meaningful recently, with the scene opening up and becoming more inclusive of the LGBTQ community and different racial groups. There’s a newfound sense of fluidity.” 

We’re seeing a growing number of safe space parties 
“…especially within the queer community. As a creative, multicultural and unique city, this is a welcoming – and necessary – addition. Conversations around feminism, call-out culture and liberalism are happening all around the world, and Cape Town is actively taking part. Given our history, and the growing popularity of the city, how could we not?”

Jun Bae, Seoul

As culture leader at Seoul’s Ryse Hotel, Jun spearheads the marketing and PR team for the lifestyle hotel. We catch up with her about the changing face of Seoul’s nightlife.

There’s nothing like the night mood of Seoul. 
“The shift from day to night is different depending on where you go. In Hongdae it gets louder, younger and brighter; while Jamsil becomes quieter and slower; and Itaewon welcomes in a totally different crowd at night. Wherever you go, Seoul has a sense of serenity and beauty at night.”

The city lights after dark are nothing short of inspiring.
“Whether I’m at relaxing at home, out with friends or digging through exhibitions or new restaurants – the lights are always there. They tell different stories: in Eulgiro, lights spilling out of the high-rises illuminate people working into the night; while near Han river, you see a blur of cars travelling back and forth. Sometimes the lights are striking and energetic, sometimes they’re more like a warm glow.” 

It always feels safe going out in Seoul.
“Walking around crowded party areas like Hongdae and Itaewon is like walking through my own quiet neighbourhood.” 

There’s been a lot of change over the last few years. 
“You used to have to go to party hubs to hang out at night – Hongdae, Itaewon, Gangnam – now every corner of Seoul offers something fun. On one small alley in my neighbourhood there’s a wine bar, a cafe, a Mexican restaurant, an independent bookstore, and (of course) a Korean BBQ joint.”

Seoul is feeling the generation gap. 
“… especially when it comes to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic people associate with South Korea. Office culture is changing; when I started working in 2010, we’d work until 11pm, go out for drinks, and then go back to work the next day – even on weekends. Koreans are changing though, and individual happiness is becoming more important. The 52 hour work week is being strictly enforced by the government, for a start.”

Evenings at home and staycations are two growing trends.  
“People are spending more time at home during the evenings – socialising, hanging out, drinking – and caring way more about their home interiors. Staycations are also huge in South Korea right now. So many local guests use our hotel rooms at Ryse as their party rooms – not like the typical American house party, but for small gatherings and as a base camp for their night out.” 

Hongdae is the heart of Seoul’s art, fashion and music scene.
“There’s a creative energy here that draws the crowds. At Ryse, we draw on that energy with our collaborations with local music labels, hosting concerts and small live sessions. You see all sorts of people mingling here, tourists and locals alike.”

A city cloaked in darkness provides a whole new world of signs and symbols for brands to play with

The Sober Sesh

Using social data to chart the rise of the sober curious in cities across the globe 

In a world where health is trumping hedonism, boozy nights out are starting to lose their appeal. Enter the era of ‘near beer’ and ‘nosecco’ (Asda’s finest): the alcohol-free alternatives wetting the whistle of the wellness wave. In cities of all sizes, people are starting to turn their back on traditional ways of socialising that are often, by default, accompanied with a drink. 

Across the US, online mentions of ‘sober curious’ have increased by 465 percent in the last six months. Coined by journalist Ruby Warrington, the term illustrates an interesting shift in the discourse and a growing thirst for alcohol-free living. The use of ‘curious’ grounds the conversation in choice; offering consumers an alternative to Dutch courage and beer fear. 

As a result, sober bars and events have been popping up in America’s more progressive cities. Listen Bar in New York runs a monthly dry night for those wanting to test the water, while over in LA, sober queer spaces such as Cuties provide alternative social spots to the city’s more infamous gay bars. Rooted in the trend for leading a more holistic lifestyle, dry bars provide all the benefits of ‘normal’ nightlife, but allow people to pursue a #healthyhappylife at the same time. 

Over the last year, use of the word ‘mocktail’ increased by 43 percent in the UK and US. (Twitter data)

In the UK, a top-trending article from the Daily Mail in May 2019 drew attention to Ireland’s first and only alcohol-free bar, The Virgin Mary in Dublin. Often referred to as ‘the drinking capital of Europe,’ the bar is a radical new concept for Dubliners who have long held the Guinness factory as their most popular tourist attraction. Similarly, in London, Sainsbury’s are launching a low-alcohol pub called The Clean Vic, promoting a guilt-free after work alternative for city goers. After being announced in July, the story has had over 6,000 engagements and has been shared over 5,000 times across the globe.

Sober curiosity isn’t only relevant to the Western hemisphere. In Tokyo, for example, bars such as Aurora Lounge on the 45th floor of Shinjuku’s Keio Plaza Hotel sell nonalcoholic beers, umeshu and cocktails to a growing health-conscious crowd; and women only gatherings called joshi-kai (slang for a sober girls’ night out) are also appearing all over Instagram, creating a greater demand for more moderate or dry bars in the city.

More broadly, iconic Japanese brands such as Asahi and Sapporo have both had success with 0% beers in recent times. While alcohol marketing in Japan tends to be highly gendered, Sapporo’s 2018 campaign promoted their no-alcohol alternative as an inclusive ‘drink for everyone’ following positive feedback from both genders. There’s also growing demand for premium soft drinks that capture the luxury codes of expensive liquor, but are miles apart in their composition. Royal Blue Tea produces premium tea served in wine bottles, offering people an alternative within a drinking culture renowned for excess, particularly when it comes to doing business.

Elsewhere, in Vietnam, a rising class of affluent (mostly urban) citizens are ‘pursuing healthier lifestyles and more people are eschewing alcohol altogether,’ according to the Asian Review. This comes in light of concerns around the nation’s binge-drinking reputation, which saw a sprawl of ‘beer clubs’ open in Hoi Minh City. Venues such as The Hangover encourage frat-party style drinking and even come with designated sinks for vomit, known as lavabos.

In response, health minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien is pushing for a range of alcohol restrictions in the city; specifically targeting bars and karaoke spots where the #drinktillyoudrop culture is most prevalent. Major breweries such as Sabeco are consequently ramping up production of their low-alcohol ranges, diversifying their portfolio for a likely new, sober curious customer base. In the last six months alone, conversation online about beer clubs has dropped by 62 percent. 

So as urban nightlife slowly begins to outgrow its boozy image, it’s also becoming more diverse and inclusive. People are making conscious choices about how much alcohol they consume on a night out, with brands and venues starting to follow suit and offer a growing range of alternatives. Alcohol will still supply the social lubricant of the night for many, but a growing group of health-conscious urbanites are showing us a new way of letting go, without the headache the next day.