January may seem like a fine time for making a change, reconsidering your lifestyle choices, or trying something new. Among many drinkers, New Year’s resolutions often lead to “Dry January,” a.k.a. “Drynuary,” a trendy, temporary fast from alcohol that lasts from New Year’s Day through Jan. 31.
Though heavy drinkers may see the benefit in cutting out excess calories or hangovers after an indulgent December, Dry January puts considerable stress on bars, restaurants, and breweries. This is true in the U.K., where the “Dry January” trend began in the 2010s, as well as the U.S., where publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, and Good Housekeeping all sang the month’s abstinence praises in the last year alone.
In the U.K., a new concept for making a positive change at the beginning of the year has emerged: Tryanuary, a month-long promotion challenging consumers not to cut out all alcohol completely, but instead to focus on trying out new bars, pubs, beers, and brewers, with the goals of promoting moderation, supporting small businesses, and raising funds for charity.
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The nationwide campaign, staffed entirely by volunteers, launched in 2015 to champion the local beer industry. The program has expanded over the last six years, and is finally hitting its stride.
“Rather than binge-drinking throughout the whole of December and then having a dry January, why don’t you have an approach where you consume in moderation, as part of a healthy lifestyle throughout the year?” Mike Hampshire, Tryanuary’s national coordinator, who also manages his own pub in Leeds, says.
The first official Dry January launched in 2015 as a government campaign funded by Public Health England and Alcohol Concern, the latter of which owns the “Dry January” trademark. The effort included a website, Twitter, and Facebook page, as well as radio advertisements encouraging social drinkers to ditch alcohol for the month of January. While it’s a fine idea to keep a watchful eye on your relationship to alcohol consumption, the sudden abstinence is problematic for bars, restaurants, and breweries.
To put it another way, while you definitely might want to cut back on alcohol consumption after busy, boozy holiday season, you won’t have anywhere to celebrate the end of your diet if all your favorite bars file for bankruptcy by Feb. 1.
“January is indeed the worst month of the year for restaurants,” National Restaurant News reported in December 2019. In the U.S. between 2013 and 2019, January restaurant traffic dipped 6 percent lower than the average month, and 11 percent lower than the peak month of June, according to The NPD Group Seasonality Index for Total Restaurant Traffic.
In the U.K., a recent report says pub and restaurant sales slumped in January 2019 “following a strong Christmas,” according to the Morning Advertiser. Furthermore, England’s cherished pubs have been going out of business at an alarming rate. Tryanuary gives customers a reason to support those businesses in what is often a very tough time. And it’s not only about alcohol — according to Hampshire, even those who are giving up alcohol (or who don’t drink) can participate in Tryanuary.
“Just by going into your pub and having a soft drink and a meal, you’re supporting the pub,” Hampshire says. “You can have a non-alcoholic beer and still support the beer industry. Pubs are not just about alcoholic drinks. It’s about community and society as well. It’s about combating loneliness. It’s a really nice place to socialize with friends and family.”
There’s no easy fix, but Tryanuary can certainly help, and the campaign is gaining traction at local U.K. bars and breweries. “It’s gone from this quite small, friends-and-family campaign to something a little more coordinated,” Hampshire says. “Over the last couple of years, it’s actually grown to the point where pubs and bars are interested, brewers are interested … and there’s a passionate group of beer lovers who are interested in supporting the campaign as well.”
Compared to the hectic event schedule of December, January is a more relaxed and enjoyable time for trying out new places and new drinks, says Daisy Turnell, a marketing manager at Newcastle’s Anarchy Brew Co. and Tryanuary’s local event coordinator there.
“It’s quicker to get served at the bar, you’ve got a better chance of talking to bottle shop owners and talking to folks in breweries about the beers you’re drinking,” Turnell says. “The idea is to support pubs, bars, breweries and bottle shops — and to encourage people to not go cold turkey for an entire month, and to realize that those businesses need support year-round.”
As part of that effort, Anarchy Brew Co. will host a Tryanuary edition of its Friends of Anarchy Beer Fest on Saturday, Jan. 25. Thirteen local breweries and one from Switzerland will pour their beers, helping to raise funds for the U.K. drinks industry charity The Benevolent.
Other Tryanuary events taking place around the U.K. range from tap takeovers to pub crawls and drink specials.
Now, it’s North America’s turn. After all, a sensible take on alcohol use, instead of an all-or-nothing mentality, supports the local drinks industries that Drynuary participants love, and expect to be there, alive and well, once February comes.
“We’ve always been U.K.-based, but there’s nothing that could stop this from happening in other countries,” says Hampshire. “For us, the important thing is moderation. It’s all about moderation.”