Food & Drink

Published: February 18, 2022 | Updated: February 18, 2022

Raise a glass! Dave’s dream of owning the first alcohol-free bar in the South becomes a reality

Dave Tonkes, Owner, Sobar in Ashley Cross, Poole. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Dave Tonkes is living proof that dreams really can come true.

His vision of opening the South’s first independent alcohol-free bar and coffee shop has become reality.

Sobar – a variation on ‘sober’ – officially opened its doors at 5pm on February 18.

The former premises of Bennetts Family Bakers in Ashley Cross, Poole, have been transformed into a chic, chilled-out and trendy venue.

The main bar area can seat up to 22 people with a further 12 in adjoining rooms as well as standing room.

The attention to detail includes hooks under each table for bags and handbags.

IPA, lager and cider is available on draught together with sparkling white wine, rosé, prosecco, spirit alternatives and cocktails.

All are alcohol-free and tasted by Dave who has sunk upwards of £75,000 into his new venture.

The father of three said: “We have up to 11 beers, 15 wines and seven gin alternatives as well as pink gins, ten spirit alternatives, three apéritifs and two liquors.

“The one thing I haven’t got is an alcohol-free red wine – I’m still looking as I haven’t found a decent one on the market.”

Dave, 51, has spent 34 years in the financial services industry including the last 12 running his own consultancy, Complianz.

But the ‘pipe dream’ of having his own bar has always been in the back of his mind.

The motivation to launch Sobar came after his own experience with alcohol and what he describes as an ‘unhealthy relationship’.

He’s been teetotal for 11 months.

Dave first found the site for what was to become Sobar in Bournemouth Road last July, eventually taking over the lease on December 1.

A friend, Jim Constantin, did much of the building conversion while his sister, Nicola Cranshaw, has worked with KTM Design, headed by Katie Thomas, on the design concepts.

Dave said: “I’ve never worked so hard in all my life but I genuinely have loved every moment.

“Since the New Year it’s been non-stop, seven days a week and up to 12 hours a day and sometimes more.

“Jim has been absolutely brilliant.

“As soon as I walked in, I knew it was the right place.

“The size, the feel, it just felt perfect.

“This has been my baby.

“I feel quite emotional at what’s been achieved but also incredibly proud.

Our December story revealing Dave’s plans

“The positive response and support received since you [Dorset Biz News] first featured me in December has been quite overwhelming.

“Now comes the true test.”

Dave, who is continuing with his compliance consultancy, will run the bar together with two part-time staff.

As well as the non-alcoholic drinks, a selection of coffees and vegan and gluten-free biscotti and cakes will be served.

If all goes to plan, bar snacks and other food will go on the menu after the first six months or so.

Sobar’s initial opening hours will be 4pm to 11pm on Saturday February 19 and 10.30am to around 4pm on Tuesday February 22.

Thereafter opening hours will be 10.30am to 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday with a later closing time of 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Sobar is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Apart from KTM Design, others involved in the project include Poole-based marketing agency b4b which has managed the PR and social media.

It’s also designed Sobar’s new website which will be launched soon.

Dave said: “My wife, Corinne [Dr Corinne Pavy, a GP at St Albans Medical Centre in Charminster] has been amazing.

“So patient and such a support.

“I couldn’t have done it without her.”