A Fan storefront that recently served IPAs and lagers soon will be pouring something never before seen on Richmond taps.
KavaClub, which will serve kava, a relaxing drink made from the root of a type of pepper plant found in Polynesia and other Pacific Islands, is preparing to open in Canon & Draw Brewing Co.’s former space at 1529 W. Main St. in the Fan.
While kava doesn’t contain alcohol, it provides drinkers with feelings of mild euphoria and relaxation, and has been used for centuries as a ceremonial and social drink.
Behind KavaClub are entrepreneurs DJ Lee and Fred Bryant, who was a cofounder of local broker-dealer WealthForge, as well as restaurant industry veteran Dale Barta, who was a longtime manager at The Franklin Inn. Lee said kava is popular in other parts of the country but hasn’t made its way to the Richmond region yet.
“Most existing kava bars are in Florida. We were out there one time and happened upon a few different kava bars. That’s where the idea was initially sparked from,” Lee said. “(Kava) sounds like this new up-and-coming thing, which it is in a lot of ways, but it’s a very established product.”
Barta said they don’t claim that kava has medicinal benefits, but noted that the drink is popular among people with anxiety and those looking for an alternative to alcohol.
“I get a giddy feeling from (kava). A lot of people who suffer from anxiety will use it as stress relief, and people who are trying to come off alcohol like it because it gives them a social space and feels like a bar, but it’s not a bar,” Barta said.
Kava is not regulated by the Virginia ABC or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. KavaClub will serve only people 18 and older.
Lee said KavaClub will produce its own kava in-house with roots sourced from Fiji. The bar won’t serve food or alcohol, but Lee said the menu will include some flavor profiles familiar to alcohol drinkers.
“The menu will consist of things that taste like cocktails people are used to. That’s for people that aren’t experienced kava drinkers. For those that are experienced kava drinkers, they just take it with water,” Lee said, adding that they’ll also serve nitro cold-brew coffee and tea.
Added Barta: “Some people swear by drinking it in a coconut shell.”
Drinks at KavaClub will average around $9.
Bryant was a co-founder of local online broker-dealer WealthForge. Barta was a manager at The Franklin Inn for over 10 years.
The Main Street space came open after Canon & Draw closed last summer. The brewery was then divided into roughly 3,500- and 1,500-square-foot spaces. Kavaclub took the larger of the two spaces and is renovating it.
Though “club” is in the establishment’s name, Lee said KavaClub will be open to the public and operate without a membership model. Barta said the aim is for it to be a social space with Wi-Fi, games, swings, a pool table, darts and more.
“Kava’s a social lubricant for those that have social anxiety and can tend to put people at ease, which is what the space is supposed to do as well,” she said.
Lee and Barta said they’re aiming to open in the next few weeks. They’re hoping to catch on to the up-and-coming non-alcoholic drink industry, which has also landed in Richmond with non-alcoholic bottle shop Point 5 in Carytown.
“Whether people are consciously not drinking or just sober-curious, it’s a big national movement we’re seeing, and we wanted to take part in that and provide a space for that,” Lee said.