A PART of Poole known for its drink-fuelled nightlife now has the area’s first alcohol-free bar.

Long-time Ashley Cross resident Dave Tonkes wanted to offer a warm, pub-style welcome with drinks that could match their alcoholic equivalents for taste.

He created Sobar – a pun on sober – in the former Bennetts bakery in Bournemouth Road.

“I’ve always wanted to do a bar. I’d go into other bars and pubs and think ‘If I had this, I’d do this or that’,” he said.

“I had always wanted the ambience and atmosphere we’ve created but I had an issue with alcohol which I’d call an unhealthy relationship and I gave up 11 months ago.”

The father-of-three said he had been frustrated by the lack of enjoyable alternatives to alcoholic drinks.

“There was just nothing on offer unless you wanted Diet Cokes or lime and soda or a really awful alcohol-free beer from one of the large alcohol companies, mentioning no names.

“There was nothing on offer for people that didn’t drink for whatever reason – whether they were in recovery, whether they didn’t want to drink for religious purposes, for health reasons. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t want to drink but want to go and socialise and have a good time.”

Mr Tonkes sourced a selection of lagers, IPA beers, ciders, cocktails and wines.

“I just did a lot of research, contacted a lot of manufacturers, a lot of smaller craft places that were specialising in the alcohol-free market and just got them to send me samples. It I don’t like it, I won’t sell it,” he said.

He believes most people would not tell the difference between the drinks and their alcoholic counterparts in a blind test.

Mr Tonkes runs a one-man financial consultancy business as well as Sobar – and admits he invested much more than he expected.

“My budget went out of the window after about three weeks,” he said.

The bar was set to open last night and will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays, with late opening until 10pm or 11pm from Wednesdays.

It will open at 10.30am, serving coffee from Carve Coffee Roasters in Swanage along with cakes and biscotti.

Sobar’s location in Ashley Cross puts it alongside the town’s busiest area for night-time drinking.

“I’ve lived in Ashley Cross for the past 42 years, since we moved down from London when I was 10,” said Mr Tonkes.

“Ashley Cross was always my old stomping ground. I never went to Poole or Bournemouth. If I was going to do something, it had to be here.”

The design of the venue was led by KTM Design, whose founder, Katie Thomas, said: “The natural environment played a key part in our design concept for Sobar as we wanted to enhance the calming nature of the space. This was also complemented with retro and mid-century modern vibes to give the bar a trendy and fun edge, making it the perfect inviting atmosphere for get-togethers.”

Poole-based marketing agency b4b organised public relations, social media and a website to be launched soon.