THE owner of Poole's first alcohol-free bar has made the “difficult decision” to apply for a liquor licence to keep the venue going.

Sobar at Ashley Cross will still be focused on no-alcohol options but is making the change mainly for groups where some members want to drink.

Dave Tonkes, who opened the business in February, said: “We’ve applied for a licence to do a little bit of alcohol. It’s going to be a 25/75 split.

“The idea is to provide a small variety of alcoholic drinks for those people that do want to enjoy them.”

He said the move was necessary for him to make a living from the business.

“It was a difficult decision to make because my passion was on the alcohol-free side but the fact is I have to do it," he said.

Mr Tonkes had an “unhealthy relationship” with alcohol but gave it up 11 months before opening his business.

He founded Sobar – a pun on sober – after becoming frustrated by a lack of enjoyable non-alcoholic drinks.

He is a long-term resident of Poole’s Ashley Cross area, which is known for its large number of bars and restaurants. He opened the business in the former Bennetts bakery in Bournemouth Road. 

He sourced a range of alcohol-free lagers, IPA beers, ciders, cocktails and wines.

“It’s had a positive response from people when they’ve been,” he said.

“It’s not failed in that respect. It’s just that I’ve identified the need to offer everybody an alternative.”

He added: “All the comments from people that have been in are that they absolutely loved it. It’s got a nice vibe to it, nice and chilled out, and those that don’t drink enjoy it because it gives them a variety of options, all without alcohol.

“I’ve had some really positive responses. It just needs that little extra to keep it going.

“It’s paying the bills but it needs to do a little bit more to pay me.“

The bar is set to close for three weeks next month so the kitchen can be upgraded to introduce a range of plant-based food. Mr Tonkes hopes it will be up and running in the week commencing August 15.

He said the food menu would cater for “people that want a plant-based option once or twice a week” for environmental or health reasons.

The venue’s coffee shop operation will shut for a couple of days, he said.

Sobar's application to serve alcohol daily from 9am to midnight will be considered by BCP Council.