So, Dry January is over. For those of you who saw it through to the easy or bitter end, congratulations.

How did you find dodging the booze? Was substituting a cocktail for a mocktail an effortless task, or was repeatedly forgoing a few well-deserved pints or a much-needed bottle of wine quite the gruelling endurance test?

Whichever applies to you, you’ve made it.

A friend who completed the London Marathon many years ago remembers crossing the finish line utterly wrecked and exhausted, saying he was unable to relate to previous finishers’ proclaimed feelings of euphoria, instead insisting he never wished to suffer through such a physically and mentally taxing feat again.

READ MORE: Opinion: Why sticking with Dry January is well worth your time

I’m sure there’s an analogous, albeit somewhat distorted, relatability there for some who slogged out the first 31 days of 2024 dry and cracked open a celebratory cold one as soon as we finally reached February 1.

I’m also sure there’ll be a freshly inspired handful of others wishing to continue with their abstention, rejuvenated from enjoying the benefits of going alcohol free. Whichever category you fall into – I don’t blame you.

But how has people’s participation in Dry January affected venues in Oxford? What do our renowned publicans have to say of trends they’ve observed and felt the effects of?

In summary: more engaging with Dry January, slightly fewer frequenting the local and a large uptake in low and alcohol-free drinks.

In December 2023, research from Alcohol Change UK revealed that amongst UK adults (excluding non-drinkers), 30 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women would like to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink in 2024.

These figures came as an estimated 8.5 million UK adults planned to take a break from alcohol this January, a figure almost level with that reported in January 2023. And pubs throughout Oxford have noted this.

Steven Lyne of the Royal Blenheim in Saint Ebbe's Street said: “Dry January seems to change for us each year. Previously, people would cut out alcohol entirely, whereas now many look for low alcohol alternatives. As we’re in the city centre, we’re consistent with our numbers.

“Breweries are becoming very creative with their low and zero ABV products, both in variety and marketing, and a lot of consumers are picking up on that. These options we have on draught have proved really popular this month, especially with younger customers.

“It’s not as scary a time for publicans as what it once was in the industry – embracing trends allows them to reap the benefits.”

Adam Hall, manager of the Rose and Crown in North Parade Avenue, has also observed gathering momentum for the dry month initiative. He said: “We have a big range of alcohol-free drinks and sell a lot of them. We’re grateful to those who come out and still support the pub even if they aren’t drinking at this time of year.”

James Watson, pub protection adviser for the Campaign for Pubs has argued that it is now “essential” for many pubs’ survival that they offer no and low alcohol drinks.

Witney Gazette: Many shops and supermarkets now have dedicated aisle sections for low and alcohol-free drinks as the range on the market expands

Paul Silcock, landlord of Gardeners Arms in Plantation Road, said: “We’ve had a big uptake on non-alcoholic drinks. We saw this around the first 10 days of the month but witnessed a lot of people attempting to complete Dry January not sicking with it, despite having good intentions.

“Alcohol-free alternatives to popular drinks are great to a point but drinkers don’t get that buzz or edge of relaxation.

“I’d say youngsters are drinking less than a decade ago, but post-pandemic there may have been a shift back towards drinking for a few in the wake of two years of missed socialising opportunities.

“The social media generation are conscious of their digital footprint however and may want to look good on camera, whether in terms of health behaviours or videos of drunken antics being posted online.”

Journal BMC Public Health corroborates local publicans’ experiences, citing research from Torronen et al which suggests social media’s capacity to document drunken behaviour, expanding socialising opportunities (that do not involve drinking) and a social trend towards healthiness all now serve as major factors ascribed to deterring youngsters from drinking in similar numbers and quantities to older generations.

Dave Richardson, press and publicity officer for the Oxford Campaign for Real Ale, said: “City centre pubs are lucky to be in a counter bubble with a steady stream of tourists and students walking through their doors, but outside of the city centre there are pubs struggling, as can be seen with restricted opening hours.

“Dry January comes at a slow time of year. People spend at Christmas and in the following weeks, many don’t go out. Any reason not to drink doesn’t mean you can’t still head to the pub for food and a variety of other drinks though.

“There’s a long-term trend away from drinking alcohol for younger people which is worrying for pubs as there will be significantly fewer in the habit of going to the pub throughout their life as they get older.”

So there you have it – our local (and national) drinking behaviour and the narrative surrounding alcohol are slowly, and perhaps irrevocably, turning, with youngsters leading the way.

For those of you, like my friend that once decided to give the London Marathon a go as a new challenge, who subsequently couldn’t think of anything worse than completing another dry month, fair enough. As Brits we certainly love a good drink.

But for those wishing to take Dry January by the horns once more next year, or perhaps enjoy sobriety for even longer, you’re banking a host of positives too and I’d argue there’s nothing better than waking up void of (residual) alcohol and its effects.

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As we can see from our much-loved boozers, whether you stick to enjoying a few drinks, cut back or go entirely sober, you can still get out and enjoy socialising with friends and family at the pub.

Whatever happens, affording one another basic respect when it comes to health choices is indubitably a smart choice.

Cheers to that.