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Michigan's first 'Sober Bar' opens for business

Teresa Stokes knows firsthand how limited the options are for people in alcohol or drug recovery. So, she opened Michigan's first 'Sober Bar.'

LANSING, Mich. — What are some of the common things that make up the atmosphere inside a sports bar? Big screen TVs, Bubble Hockey, billiards, boneless wings and booze are certainly some of the staples that attract customers.

A new sports bar has opened in Lansing that looks, sounds and smells like every Buffalo Wild Wings on the planet, except there's one item that doesn't exist on their menu - alcohol - making it the first 'Sober Bar' in the state of Michigan.

For the past 6 years, Teresa Stokes has co-owned Pinnacle Recovery Services in Lansing. It's a local nonprofit that serves as a housing program for the underserved population's of Ingham County, creating successful housing for people in recovery from substance abuse and mental health disorders.

So, she knows firsthand how limited the options are for people in recovery who try to find places to socialize.

"People in recovery needs somewhere to go other than AA or NA meetings," said Stokes who, along with her wife, Ayanna Ballard, own 'Wing Heaven Sports Haven' restaurant. "These people can't go to Applebee's or to a movie theater; they can't go anywhere where alcohol is served."

Late last year, Stokes decided to buy a vacant restaurant located at 3812 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Lansing, and turn it into a 'Sober Bar.'

"A Sober Bar is a place for the community at large to come to if you don't want to engage in alcoholic beverages," said Stokes. "It's also a place were people in substance abuse recovery can feel the same adrenaline you get in a traditional bar atmosphere without the feeling of being triggered."

"Wing Heaven Sports Haven," which opened Monday, March 15, caters specifically to people who are in recovery, on probation or parole.

"How do these people hang out with their family and friends," Stokes said. "They can't, so we're providing somewhere neutral where they can."

The restaurant is very spacious. Upon entering, to the right is the gaming area, where you'll find a pool table, air hockey and some 1980s-style arcade games. To the left is several booths for dine-in customers to utilize. 

Several big screen TVs are positioned on all the walls so everybody can watch the big game.

The food menu resembles most traditional sports bars, with burgers, sandwiches and subs, fish & shrimp and, of course, traditional, boneless and whole wings, featuring 21 different signature sauces.

The drink menu? Well, that's where it becomes non-traditional.

"We have Fuzzy Pineapple Punch, Mermaid Lemonade and Arnold Palmers, of course," Stokes said, referring to a few items on the beverage list. 

The customers aren't the only ones in substance abuse recovery. Some of the restaurant employees need this restaurant just as much as the customers do.

"Today is my anniversary for being 17 months sober," said Joshua Carr, who is the restaurant's Co-General Manager and Kitchen Manager. "I've been in and out of recovery most of my life.

"This place gives me something to keep my mind and hands busy."

Most importantly, the restaurant will be a place where those battling addiction can feel safe.

"You don't have to order anything," Stokes said. "Just come in the door and hangout.

"No matter what your drug of choice is, just so you're not using in that moment, come here and have a seat and we'll give you some food, because your life is way, way more valuable than the cost of a meal."

Stokes says now that the March 15 grand opening is over, she's strongly considering creating some space in the restaurant's basement where recovery meetings can be held, should any costumers feel they'd like to share their story and/or additional help along their path toward recovery.

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