The lights were dimmed in Mighty Good Coffee, a small café in downtown Ann Arbor. Lit candles lined the tables, and bassist Lenny Swanson — Mighty Good Coffee’s wholesale and general manager — led a house band through a few jazz standards. Interestingly enough, as customer chatter buzzed around the shop, coffee wasn’t the drink of choice.

For the third time, Mighty Good Coffee moonlighted as the Brillig Dry Bar on Saturday night, opening its doors to the public and ushering in crowds of people looking to drink without getting drunk.

The opening marked the bar’s official commitment to operating every other week, though owner Nic Sims said Brillig will likely welcome customers on a more regular basis in coming months.

“It’s a fun and lively place for people who are looking for a night on the town without all of the trappings that come along with an alcoholic bar — the noise levels, the TVs and the alcohol,” Sims said. “I mean it’s really just about an alcohol-free, fun place to hang out.”

Sims is part of the alcohol-recovery community, as are many of her patrons. With the dry bar, she said, she is providing others with a fun way to “overcome their demons.”

Brillig serves non-alcoholic classics, like a Brooklyn Egg Cream, and alternatives to traditionally alcoholic beverages, like its Vernors Orange Sour. The bar’s drink menu changes to include seasonal fruits and flavors — for example, Sims recently switched from a cranberry sour to the orange.

For sake of reference, a “whiskey sour” typically involves whiskey, lemon juice and sugar; the Vernors Orange Sour entails fresh orange juice and “sour sauce,” which consists of cider vinegar, fresh ginger and powder ginger.

Sims’ husband David Myers owns Mighty Good Coffee. He and Sims conceptualized Brillig during Thanksgiving this year — they wanted to find a way to use the shop after coffee-drinking hours had ended.

Sims said in total, the conversation that catapulted Brillig Dry Bar into existence lasted 15 minutes.

“I came up with the name, I sketched out a logo, we made a plan for what we would serve and then we decided that we would test it,” Sims said.

The bar’s name, “Brillig,” comes from one of Sims’ favorite poems — “Jabberwocky” from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”

“The poem has a lot of meaning to me as a person,” she said. “I relate it to recovery in that everybody has a jabberwocky or a demon or something that they’re trying to deal with.”

“ ‘Brillig’ appears in the first line of the poem. It means ‘the time of day when you switch from daytime to evening cooking.’ ”

The bar opened for the first time Dec. 5, coinciding with Ann Arbor’s “Midnight Madness,” a night of holiday sales, caroling and shopping.

Sims said about 250 to 300 people passed through the dry bar that opening night, initiating it as a hot spot for people around Ann Arbor and beyond.

The next pop-up opening came Dec. 29. Bartender Eric Monaghan said the result was similar — all sorts of people showed up, some from as far away as Toledo, Ohio.

Monaghan added that the bar has attracted two demographic groups in particular: pregnant women and Muslims, both of which are known not to drink alcoholic beverages.

“It’s been very interesting — the different crowds that we’ve attracted,” Monaghan said. “We’ve gotten a lot of students, which I found surprising at first.”

Monaghan said because Ann Arbor is known for its non-dry nightlife, it was a bit of a wonder that so many students have shown up to Brillig.

LSA sophomore Maddy Moog was one of the students at Brillig on Saturday night.

“One thing I really liked about it was that it was like a judge-free zone,” Moog said. “It was a great way to go out with friends and not feel like you had any pressure on you to consume alcohol.”

However, to Sims, the fact that students are drawn to Brillig is a particular type of success, a solution to a question she had long been trying answer.

“How can I provide an alternative to the myth that recreation requires alcohol consumption?” Sims asked. “How can I make teens understand that it’s not a right of passage to grow up, to be drunk?”

She said she wanted to show young people that they could go out to a bar-like environment and have fun without getting drunk. This message is particularly important to Sims because she and her husband have two teenage children, one 16 and one 17.

In addition to the family and baristas from Mighty Good Coffee, several of Sims’ friends also wanted to be a part of the Brillig project and work dry bar events.

“It always feels like we’re just having a big party at the café,” Sims said.

As of now, Sims’ party drink of choice is the Brooklyn Egg Cream — being from Brooklyn herself, it makes her “nostalgic and happy and feel good.”

The Brooklyn Egg Cream is also one of Monaghan’s favorites.

“It almost makes you feel like you’re a kid, it’s like a chocolate soda,” Monaghan said. “It’s been one of our most consistent drinks. It’s really nice and sweet and a lot of people really like it.”

Sims said each step she takes with Brillig is a baby step toward expanding the community’s idea of nightlife culture. Now, she is beginning to consult with other businesses interested in mirroring her business model and has trademarked some of the dry bar’s drinks.

“This is my heart and soul and guts, everywhere,” she said.

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