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Two Columbus residents set to open the city's first sober bar

The staff at Dry Mill Bar, the first sober bar in Downtown Columbus on South Fourth Street. From left: Bob Read, Rod Allen, David Payne, Hayley Summers, Savannah McConnell, Robert Webb and Colin Thomas.
Tyler Thompson
/
WOSU
The staff at Dry Mill Bar, the first sober bar in Downtown Columbus on South Fourth Street. From left: Bob Read, Rod Allen, David Payne, Hayley Summers, Savannah McConnell, Robert Webb and Colin Thomas.

The first sober bar in downtown Columbus is set for its grand opening this Saturday. Dry Mill Bar is a concept from two Columbus residents who wanted to start a business that gives the community a place to socialize without the pressures of alcohol.

Bartender Hayley Summers is making an “All American,” one of 33 original mocktails on the menu.

“So this will actually start off with a little less than half a glass of sprite,” Summers said. “You really have to shake it for the layering. And chilled correctly, it will just sink to the bottom.”

It’s a layered drink made with Blue Curacao, Sprite and Grenadine.

 Hayley Summers and Colin Thomas behind the bar at The Dry Mill
Tyler Thompson
/
WOSU
Hayley Summers and Colin Thomas behind the bar at The Dry Mill

Summers heard about The Dry Mill bar online. It began as a Kickstarter campaign last year and gained serious traction from the community. She thought it was a fantastic idea for a concept and helped curate the bar’s mocktail menu.

“I’ve worked in bars my entire life I have plenty of family and friends that have struggled," she said. "And I just thought it's a really great concept. Everybody can come in and feel part of the crowd.”

Columbus residents Colin Thomas and David Payne own the bar. Payne said the two were born and raised in the area. They became friends in middle school and helped each other get sober in their mid to late 20s.

“We came together and wanted to give back to the community, the sober community, those in recovery,” he said. “And those who just wanted a night out who didn’t feel like drinking.”

When Payne and Thomas first got sober, most of their friends still hung out at bars that served alcohol. Thomas said those environments were difficult to navigate.

“Obviously not a safe atmosphere to be in or a comfortable atmosphere to be in," Thomas said. "So, we can provide that. Because we didn’t have that. You know, give people that safe place to come hang out.”

Payne says the name “Dry Mill” is derived from the prohibition era. There is a giant picture on a wall that shows a person dumping beer into a sewage drain.

“They’re making alcohol and trying to sell it on the down-low," Payne said. "They called them ‘gin mills.’

A drink from The Dry Mill Bar.
Tyler Thompson
/
WOSU
A drink from The Dry Mill Bar.

It was kind of a play on words and since we don’t serve alcohol here, we just came up with Dry Mill.”

The bar will also serve non-alcoholic beers, Bloody Mary’s, tropical juices and more. Fountain drinks, energy drinks, tea and coffee will also be available. Food options range from a variety of appetizers, burgers, chicken wings and other American-style cooking.

Bob Read is the head chef for the kitchen and built many of the recipes from scratch with help from the kitchen staff. All sauces and dressings are built in-house. Read worked in the Short North and needed to get away.

He fell in love with Dry Mills' concept.

“Every night after you’ve been in the kitchen, for hours and hours, you’re beat up," Read said." You’re exhausted. You had to go to the bar to clock out. Inevitably someone would hand you a beer cause they knew you were tired. Six, seven, ten beers later you’re saying, I gotta go home. I needed to get out of that environment.”

Many of the employees at Dry Mill are in some form of recovery. Bar owners Colin Thomas and David Payne said that Dry Mill will be more than just a business.

“The greater platform is to help people who may need it," Thomas said. "Not every person that walks through that door will need help or be looking for help. But if we can be that for somebody that is ultimately the goal.”

“And I think that is what’s awesome about our staff," Payne said. "If someone needs someone to talk to, our staff has been through the same experiences.”

Dry Mill Bar’s grand opening is set for Saturday, April 30 at 11:00 a.m.

The exterior of The Dry Mill BAr.
Tyler Thompson
/
WOSU
The Dry Mill is a third-generation restaurant in the building. Its original iteration was the Serenity Cafe, a breakfast spot ran by folks in recovery.

Tyler Thompson was a reporter and on-air host for 89.7 NPR News. Thompson, originally from northeast Ohio, has spent the last three years working as a Morning Edition host and reporter at NPR member station KDLG Public Radio and reporter at the Bristol Bay Times Newspaper in Dillingham, Alaska.