Summer BBQ? How to Host a Socially Distanced Sober Summer Party

Happy guy cooking BBQ in a summer
Image: Alex Potemkin / iStock by Getty Images

As we roll into the summer months and some of the shelter-at-home quarantine mandates loosen, many Americans are undoubtedly entertaining the idea of hosting BBQs, parties, beach days, and other social gatherings.

But in light of the stark, health-related wakeup call that the COVID-19 health crisis brought to the American people, it’s essential now more than ever to be mindful of health, and to encourage a healthier way of living that spans across all aspects of day-to-day life.

That means being a little more cautious and health-minded this summer. That means making a point to host barbecues and summer get-togethers, yes, but to encourage that they be substance-free barbecues and get-togethers.

A Sober BBQ — A Better Way to Enjoy Summer Activities with Friends and Family

There is often this notion that summertime parties need to include alcohol, as though alcohol is a necessary facilitator of pleasant social interaction. However, there is no substantive data that would suggest alcohol helps engender positive and meaningful social interaction. What data we do have suggests that people are more likely to experience unpleasant interactions as a result of drinking.

Though an incident of violence at a social gathering of friends is unlikely, studies show that, when violence does occur, it is likely that alcohol is a factor. Of the 11.1 million victims of violent incidents each year, about one in four (2.7 million) report that the offender had been drinking before the violence.

Alcohol dulls the mind and inhibits logical, analytical response. For some, a short-term effect of drinking is violent, aggressive behavior or mood changes. It would seem that, as there is no positive benefit of alcohol consumption during social gatherings, but there is a host of potential risk factors. So why not opt for sober cookouts, barbecues, picnics, and social gatherings this summer?

The Importance of Offering Options in Summertime Party Beverages

Different beverages

Hosting a sober party might have been something you’ve always thought of doing, but you didn’t know how to pull one-off. Some people might expect to be able to drink at a social gathering. How can you host a barbecue or other outdoor, summer get together and have no one there drink alcohol?

One study found a simple answer. British researchers discovered that people are more likely to choose alcohol-free options when there are lots of nonalcoholic beverages on the table.

Over 800 people participated in the study. When presented with eight drink choices, participants were 48 percent more likely to chose a nonalcoholic beverage when six of the eight drink choices were nonalcoholic. But when there were only two nonalcoholic drinks offered, study participants were 46 percent less likely to choose a nonalcoholic beverage.

When more than half of the beverages offered were nonalcoholic, 49 percent of participants chose nonalcoholic drinks. But when there was an abundance of alcoholic beverages and only a few nonalcoholic options, only 26 percent of participants opted for nonalcoholic beverages.

Quoting Anna Blackwell, one of the researchers, “Previous research has shown that increasing the availability of healthier food options can increase their selection and consumption relative to less healthy food. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that increasing the availability of nonalcoholic drinks, relative to alcoholic drinks in an online scenario, can increase their selection.”

So right off the bat, a great way to encourage a sober experience at one’s summertime barbecue or picnic is to offer lots of nonalcoholic options.

Make it About Activities, Not About Mind-Altering Substances

Another way to host a fun, fulfilling and meaningful summer party is to offer activities and events that keep guests occupied. One should make the party about more than just standing around and conversing with other guests. Activities like games, outdoor adventures, trips to the beach, walks around the neighborhood, going to the park, putting together an outdoor movie screening, getting the kids involved and playing games with them, all of these activities keep guests occupied. As a result, their attention is on the activities and the group dynamic, not what kind of beverage is in their glass.

The Importance of Maintaining Sobriety and Social Distancing in Light of COVID-19

Alcohol reject

Another good reason not to serve alcohol at a social gathering this summer is because of the ongoing risk of COVID-19. There is ample evidence that alcohol consumption does lower immune system response. From researchers Sarkar, Phil, Jung, and Wang, “Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.”

“Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia…”

Not only should social distancing rules be maintained during summer get togethers, but alcohol consumption should be prohibited. If guests object, it would be wise to inform them that drinking lowers immune response and thus increases the risk of getting sick and that you want to make this a sober, safe, and healthy social gathering.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment – The Solution for Family Members and Loved Ones Who are Addicted

Last but not least, another reason to encourage alcohol-free get-togethers this summer is simply out of a good-natured effort at preventing the risk of alcohol misuse. The only way to guarantee that one does not misuse alcohol is not to drink at all. There is no level of drinking that does not come with at least some risk.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 14 million Americans struggle with alcohol addiction. Each of those individuals started the dwindling spiral of addiction with one sip of alcohol, and then another, and another, and another. To ensure a healthy, safe, illness-free, violence-free, and enjoyable summer barbecue or friendly get-together, it would be a good idea to keep alcohol entirely out of it.

If you know someone struggling with an addiction to alcohol, it’s crucial that you help them find and enter a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Alcohol addiction is a severe crisis, and a potentially lethal. About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. Don’t let your loved one become a statistic. Get them help by contacting Narconon today. And once they return home, an alcohol-free picnic or party may be the perfect way to celebrate the opening of a new chapter in their life.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.