Downtown now has an upscale, zero-proof gathering place, located in the old Garland space on Martin Street.
by Catherine Currin | photography by Liz Condo
Don’t expect to get carded at Umbrella Dry Bar. All ages can enjoy this new gathering space on W. Martin Street (in Garland’s old space), which offers a comfortable place to enjoy festive drinks and connect with friends… just not alcohol.
“We have really delicious, nonalcoholic sparkling wine that feels celebratory and is very familiar,” says Umbrella founder Meg Paradise, “but we also have things that are not reminiscent of alcohol but are based on a complex and mature adult palette.”
Paradise drank socially until her first pregnancy six years ago: “I obviously wasn’t drinking, but I still went to the same activities that I normally would.” For Paradise, who’d “always been pretty conscious about what I consume,” it became a personal experiment of what it felt like to enjoy events like a concert, pool day or book club without alcohol.
“I realized it wasn’t the alcohol that made it fun — I really enjoyed my friends and the experiences and going out,” she says. “It wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be.”
After she’d had her child, she still loved the way she felt the next day after not drinking. But she still liked the idea of some of the other things that come with a bar — getting out of the house, gathering together, consuming something interesting. “People like the ritual, the environment, all of those things,” she says.
So in fall of 2021 Umbrella was born. Paradise says that the name originated from a dream she had of a welcoming space that felt fancy and special, but that kept you dry.
Paradise launched the brand as a pop-up, making nonalcoholic recipes at special events and local markets in Raleigh, before quitting her corporate job at Whole Foods last April to work on the permanent location, which opens this month.
Today, the space is stylish and inviting, a place to enjoy a nonalcoholic beverage — like the Daang, Look at Surely’s Temple, a complex, fizzy drink with hints of lavender and ginger; or the Gold Buzz, a woody, honey-infused drink made with spirit-free bourbon and bee pollen — and even take one home, too, from its market. “You can have the full bar experience, and we’ll have lots of products for purchase,” says Paradise.
She hopes that her guests will learn about the wide variety of nonalcoholic beverages available, and understand that a mocktail doesn’t always have to be a super sweet, sugary drink. Umbrella also offers a small food menu, to enjoy between pre- or post-dinner.
Paradise envisions Umbrella as a place where patrons indulge guilt-free. “It’s still a bar, it has the same vibes, it feels fancy,” she says. “You’re hitting all of those notes, doing the same thing you normally would on a night out — except you feel really good the next day.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.