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Dubuque’s first sober bar looking to create fun, relaxing atmosphere without the booze

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Cheering “Bula” means cheering for love and happiness at Kava Kafe, and that is a cheer Stacy Meyer has already learned quite well.

”We have not missed a day, and it has been going on for 18 days now?” Meyer said, when she remembered she has visited the cafe every single day since it has opened. “I was looking for a reason not to drink and here it is. I have not had a drop of alcohol since.”

Meyer called it her home away from home; a way to socialize without booze.

”You almost form a community when you come down,” Meyer said. “We just open up when we come to a place that we are able to express ourselves without judgment.”

And on Monday, Meyer met Jacquelyn Pfohl.

”It is super nice, very relaxing,” Pfohl said. “Which is helpful already because I just switched positions, so it is a little bit more time-consuming and a little bit more on-demand.”

Pfohl is also trying to cut back on the alcohol since she has been dealing with stomach issues. She said she is glad to have an alternative to going out aside from Dubuque’s popular bars.

“Figuring out what to do in Dubuque is sometimes kind of hard,” Pfohl said. “So having an outlet outside of an alcohol bar or something along those lines is really nice to have.”

Brett Hahlen, who owns the business, said the bar is tailor-made for people like Pfohl. You will not find alcohol or even soda at the Kava Kafe, but you will find drinks that incorporate “kava”, which is a root in the pepper family that is known for having a calming effect. The National Institutes of Health says it does have a small impact in reducing anxiety, but some supplements have led to liver problems.

”Relaxation is a big part of it,” Hahlen said. “We cheers to love and happiness, that is where we say ‘bula.’”

Hahlen was first exposed to kava in a trip down to Florida. He said his second goal is to create a space for the sober community.

”It is just a safe haven for them to come and hang out at so they can still get that social atmosphere that you get at a bar or anywhere else but without alcohol present,” Hahlen said.

It took Hahlen and his team more than a year to put the place together, but he is already thinking of his next step.

”We are the first kava bar in Iowa, ok? We are going to grow this across Iowa,” Hahlen said. “We want do five bars in five years.”

Kava Kafe is located on 3457 Jackson Street and is open daily from 11:0a.m. until 2:00 a.m.

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