Nova Scotia

Are sober parties a thing of the future? Some Nova Scotians say yes

People in Nova Scotia are hosting sober parties while more people become interested in the idea of sobriety.

Whether it's because of health concerns or sticking with recovery, parties without alcohol are having a moment

 People threw a sober party last weekend at the Sydney Curling Club to support sobriety, over one hundred people came through the door.
More than 100 people attended a sober party last weekend at the Sydney Curling Club in Cape Breton. (Jonathan Kanary)

Jonathan Kanary of Sydney, N.S., works in event production by day and takes on DJ duties at night at Cape Breton sober parties. 

"Growing up, alcohol was always encouraged. Everybody drank and I really think that's kind of changing. I think people are being more mindful of it now," he told CBC.

He says these events take the pressure off non-drinkers, who often feel forced to drink at parties, while giving them a chance to socialize and have fun. Kanary, who is in recovery from alcohol use, helped throw a recent sober party in Sydney and more than 100 people came through the door.

"Last weekend the dance floor was absolutely packed all night, so I don't think anybody has a problem getting up and having a good time without alcohol," said Kanary.

"I think it's important to not only cater to persons who are in recovery, but to cater to people who are more mindful, and I really feel that people are becoming more involved with events for the entertainment aspect, not just because it's a good time to go and get drunk," he said.

Another group, UNtoxicated Queers in Halifax, also had success last weekend at their first sober holiday party held in collaboration with Sober City. 

Liane Khoury is a health promoter at Mental Health and Addictions for Nova Scotia Health and helped found UNtoxicated Queers. The group supports people in the queer community to experience sobriety using a harm-reduction model, which encourages practising less addictive behaviours instead of complete abstinence. 

Khoury more people want to stay sober these days, herself included. 

"I wasn't feeling that part of always wanting to drink, it was exhausting on my body, and I feel like it's also for health reasons. I'm not young anymore. I can't handle, you know, waking up and having a two-day hangover," she said in a phone interview. 

So far this year, Kanary has held 12 private sober parties. Both he and Khoury say they plan to have even more in the new year. 

Kanary, who's originally from Glace Bay, says socializing in Cape Breton hasn't traditionally been conducive to sobriety, but that is slowly changing. 

Jonathan Kanary is an event producer and DJ in Sydney, Cape Breton, he throws sober accessible parties as they rise in popularity.
Jonathan Kanary is an event producer and DJ in Sydney, Cape Breton, where he throws sober parties. (Josefa Cameron)

"Typically going to bars around here you are encouraged to drink by staff or the venue or what have you, so not feeling that pressure in public [at a sober party] is really beneficial to the environment," Kanary said. 

And there are more alcohol-free options popping up that focus on quality, he adds. Island Folk Cider House in Sydney makes their own alcohol-free cider. Breton Brewing also sells alcohol-free beer and a new seasonal brew with a low alcohol percentage advertised as "light on alcohol but big on flavour." 

"I think people enjoy variety and people don't necessarily just want to drink a sugary beverage when they go out… I know when I stopped drinking, I was more conscious of my health all around. So drinking things like pop or coffee at 11 o'clock at night was not an option for me," Kanary said. 

He personally does not find the holiday season difficult when it comes to his sober choices, but some people do. 

"If that's the case, I recommend having some support," he said. 

Khoury said she'd like to see that support coming from restaurants and bars in the form of more mocktail options at restaurants. 

Having the courage to say no is also important, Khoury said, "and if you want an excuse, always have something like a bottle of water or a can of pop in your hands and be like, 'no.'"

Having more conversations around alcohol, sobriety and why or why not you might be drinking is also important, Khoury said, especially around the holidays when there is more pressure to drink. 

"So changing the narrative of having alcohol as the main focus of the party is important. I think the main focus should be us hanging out with each other and having community," she said. 



Josefa Cameron

Associate producer/reporter

Josefa is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Nova Scotia. You can reach her at


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?