There are infinite reasons you might not be drinking when you go out tonight. Maybe you’re sober. Maybe you overdid it last night and you’re taking it easy. Maybe you just got selected to be a contestant on The Bachelorette, and you’re recharging before you spend six months with a champagne IV stuck in your arm. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to have fun. Whether it’s a place with plenty of activities to keep you busy, a bar with non-alcoholic drinks that are still worth ordering, or even a spot where you can smoke weed in the dining room, here are 12 great places to go when you’re not drinking.
Harvard & Stone is a dive bar in Thai Town that might have the best non-alcoholic cocktails in LA. They range from the Baby’s First Bourbon (basically a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned), to the Honeydew Collins, with lime juice, coconut milk, and Seedlip citrus. But that’s not even the main reason this is such a fun place to come when you’re not drinking. They’ve got a back bar where they let you smoke (it’s actually outside), live music every night, and an impressive burlesque show in the catwalk above the bar on weekends. You’ll only think you’re drunk.
Alcohol is pretty low on the list of reasons to like tiki drinks, behind flashy serving vessels, fresh fruit juice, lots of coconut, and those little paper umbrellas. So it makes sense that Lono - a tiki bar in the sh*ttiest part of Hollywood - is a good place to go when you’re not drinking. As much as this spot looks like a trashy dance club, it’s actually a really fun place to spend a night. Grab a virgin piña colada or a Painkiller from one of the two bars inside this massive space, and then spend your night dancing, watching ’50s beach movies on the huge projector, and eating pineapple popcorn shrimp.
Apotheke is an extremely fancy cocktail lounge in Chinatown, with expensive and complicated drinks. That goes for the non-alcoholic ones, too. They make their N/A cocktails with Kin Euphorics, which, despite a name that sounds like a multi-level marketing company your retired uncle will tell you is definitely not a pyramid scheme, are actually good, weird “adaptogenic” beverages that give you something resembling an alcohol-free buzz. And even if it’s just psychosomatic, that doesn’t mean you won’t still feel good sitting on the back patio drinking them.
It might not even be fair to include Crawfords on this list, because no one is there for the drinks. Rather, it’s the fantastic hot chicken. And the pool. And Big Buck Hunter. This is a bar that wouldn’t feel out of place somewhere in the southern half of the Appalachian Trail, with plenty of halogenic beer signs, red leather booths, and wood beams on the ceiling. Basically, what we’re saying is that sober or not, no matter how much time you spend at Crawfords, you should probably be spending even more.
It’s always fun to spend the night dancing under a disco ball - whether you’re drinking PBRs while you do it or not. That’s why Venice’s Little Friend should immediately enter your rotation of bars to not drink in. This little place tucked behind Sunny Spot on Washington Blvd. has DJs spinning actual records and themed nights pretty much all week, from ’90s hip-hop to Prince to disco. They’ve also got a cool, friendly crowd that’s not afraid to mix it up, if it’s the kind of night where you’re looking to meet someone.
Outside of what actually happens inside, Sassafras Saloon is a spectacle in itself. This Southern-themed bar is - literally - an old Savannah townhouse that was rebuilt right on Vine in Hollywood. There are multiple levels, but the place you want to spend your time is the downstairs living room. There’s a stage down there, and they host everything from swing-dancing parties (where people actually dress up), to New Orleans-style jazz and blues nights. The non-alcoholic cocktails are highly worth your time, and feature ingredients like house-made grenadine, fresh ginger syrup, and all kinds of juices and tonics.
Koreatown’s Soopsok is a great karaoke spot, which automatically means it’s a great place to drink. But it’s also an excellent place to stay sober - because you get to sing Stevie Nicks as loudly as you want in a private room. You book those rooms in advance, which means no one other than your friends will hear your brutal rendition of “Edge of Seventeen” (which is probably for the best). The song selection here is absolutely massive, and always up-to-date, so if you’re the kind of person who needs to sing Top 40 at karaoke, they’ve got you covered.
A Venice dive bar that’s a total Westside institution, Hinano is a burger-and-a-beer spot that’s just as good without the beer. They cook their famed burgers on a flat-top grill right behind the bar, and serve them in a basket with a bag of Lay’s. This is the ideal place to pull up a stool in between surly locals who’ve been sitting at the bar since Jim Morrison was partying here 50 years ago. There are also a couple of pool tables, if you’re here with a friend. Or if you want to get hustled by one of those locals.
You might not be drinking, but you’re definitely interested in other so-called vices. The Original Cannabis Cafe is the first - and at the moment, only - cannabis cafe in the city. They don't have a liquor license, and even if they did, people probably wouldn't be downing cocktails - they'd be taking hits out of massive bubblers. They’ve got a whole menu of options you can smoke/consume inside the restaurant, from pre-rolls and fresh flower to infused teas and chocolates. Obviously, this isn’t the place to come if you’re abstaining from all substances, but if you’re doing the whole California Sober thing, this is - quite literally - the only place to go out.
Just because you’re “going out” doesn’t mean that you need to stand on a table at a karaoke bar, or get square-dancing lessons from a Cher impersonator. For a chill night out that’s still more fun than sitting at home drinking LaCroix, head to Koreatown’s Ddong Ggo. It’s a tented-in beer garden where you’ll find people eating kimchi pancakes and chain-smoking while they watch the Lakers game. It’s a bit like if you took a house party and moved it to a parking lot on Western Ave., and that’s why it’s so fun.
Upstairs Rooftop Lounge at Ace Hotel
There are a lot of things to hate about rooftop bars in DTLA - the crowds, the overpriced cocktails, the lack of any real views. The roof of the Ace Hotel avoids all those. Besides having an actual view of the city, this huge outdoor patio has a cool crowd of people looking to mingle, whether you’re actually drinking there or not. And they’ve got enough ginger beers and good juices on the menu that you won’t just be drinking tonic water and lime all night.