CARMEL, Ind. – A pair of sisters in Carmel have opened up a brand new drinking experience in the area.

Sisters Kristin Patrick and Andee Marley just launched their new store, Loren’s AF Beverages. The store is a boutique dedicated to selling non-alcoholic bottles.

There are a wide variety of drinks customers can purchase including sparkling wines, beers, mocktails, coffees, teas, and much more.

The duo decided to open up their own alcohol-free bottle shop following their decision to remove alcohol from their lives in 2021.

“What we hear a lot from the pandemic, and we have the evidence to prove it, many people were abusing alcohol during the pandemic,” said Loren’s AF Beverages co-owner Kristen Patrick. “So the phrase we keep coming back to is people reevaluating their relationship with alcohol.”

Recovery experts agree that the pandemic influenced alcohol abuse as consumption increased throughout the course of the pandemic, especially in the first several months of lockdowns.

“I think with the pandemic and the onset of the pandemic Indiana had made huge headway, particularly related to opioid overdose deaths,” described Stephanie Anderson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “In general [Indiana] created an environment that embraced recovery, but the pandemic hit that and attacked that very very hard.”

Anderson said people choose to go alcohol free for many different reasons, and that started to increase after the pandemic. Patrick and Marley both decided to stop drinking alcohol for various health reasons, a decision both are very proud of.

The duo said their mission is to help create better conversations about alcohol consumption in Indiana and help people “be a better host” by providing more inclusive alternatives for people who do not consume alcohol.

“Our audience is far beyond people who are alcohol free,” Patrick said. “Again, people who entertain people who have gatherings and people who have meetings. We like to say that our mission is to disrupt the narrative that alcohol is necessary to celebrate, relax, or network in Hamilton County.”

In popular culture, Patrick said drinking can be deemed a “ritual” or special celebration.

“What makes a drink special is one part of that ritual,” she said. “In fact that’s one of our best selling brands, it’s called Ritual. So again, that people who have alcohol free lifestyles can participate in events where alcohol is a centerpiece.”

Patrick said the store has many different flavors and drinks to choose from, all of which can be a part of any celebration.

“The idea that you were drinking a drink, that’s a special experience,” she described. “It’s different than our coffee and our soft drinks that we have all day long.”

Recovery experts like Anderson say alcohol-free bars, cafes, lounges, or even bottle shops like this one can be a positive thing for people who are practicing sobriety.

“[Providing] an atmosphere of positive social interaction is great in the absence of substances,” she said. “It provides a really safe environment for people to get together hang out enjoy social interaction and they don’t have to drink to have a really great relationship.”

Anderson said some people find themselves making more meaningful relationships after giving up alcohol. Recovery experts and the shop owners alike agree there are a few things people should be mindful of, however.

“Where I see it may be problematic is for those particularly earlier on in their sobriety or in their attempts to remove alcohol from their life,” Anderson said. “Whether it’s your first time trying to remove alcohol from your life or this is your 10th time, being in an atmosphere that reminds you of a bar, drinking cocktails or mocktails that are really similar in taste and color, they’re the same glasses, have the same feel, those can all be very triggering for somebody and in the long run lead them back to drinking alcohol.”

Patrick said she agrees, and wants to remind people of that as well.

“We want to be very forthcoming that we do recognize that these products are not for everyone,” she said. “People who are in recovery, who maybe have a history of alcohol abuse, they could potentially be triggering. For some people it can be a powerful tool in their toolkit into staying sober and alcohol free.”

Anderson recommends keeping connected with your supporting relationships if you are exploring a path to sobriety.

You can visit the shop on Saturdays and Sundays in Carmel from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also check it out online.