Berlin’s first sober Späti: Is ‘mindful drinking’ the new pandemic trend?

Berlin is renowned for its culture of thrill and excess, but the pandemic has put a spanner in the works. Now the capitol is home to another trend: Germany’s first non-alcoholic Späti. 

Berlin’s first sober Späti: Is 'mindful drinking' the new pandemic trend?
Inside the shelves of Null Prozent Späti. Photo: DPA

In Berlin you can now find a specialist store and online shop selling non-alcoholic beer, rum, gin, vodka and wine. Those behind the business do not see themselves as Spaßbremsen (killjoys) but as followers of the ‘mindful drinking’ trend.

The Späti (short for ‘Spätkauf’, or late-night buy) is Berlin’s answer to a Kiosk (off-licence or convenience store). 

READ ALSO: More than a corner store: Spätis struggle for survival in a changing Berlin

In February this year, Null Prozent Späti opened its doors in the hip district of Kreuzberg. Both the store and online shop offer a constant selection of beer, rum, aperitifs, gin, vodka and tequila, as well as wines such as merlot and chardonnay. It should be noted that the store itself only stays open until 8pm.

The trend towards alcohol-free products has been clear across the beer market for years, and demand is now growing.

The brand Martini is heavily peddling its non-alcoholic aperitifs and an alcohol-free bar named Zeroliq has also opened up in the neighbouring Friedrichshain district in east Berlin.

The owners of the Späti, who hail from southern Germany, say ‘’we have more than 200 non-alcoholic alternatives on offer, which helps to answer the question of what to drink when you’re not drinking”.

Katja Kauf, 29, and Isabella Steiner, 32, trace their concept back to ingrained drinking habits that often go unquestioned, such as having a mimosa in the morning, an Aperol in the sun, or a Feierarbendbier (after-work beer).

         Kauf and Steiner enjoying alcohol-free drinks. Photo: DPA

The founders say that a social culture still prevails whereby it can seem difficult to turn down a drink “without being coaxed into it, not taken seriously, judged or branded a killjoy”. 

Aside from this, there are many reasons to forgo alcohol. The Kreuzberg innovators are primarily interested in new, tasty botanicals. Steiner, who comes from the Lörrach area, stresses that they are “saying yes to non-alcoholic alternatives rather than no to alcohol”.

The cliché target audience of pregnant women is just a small section of their market: over the last six months, online orders have come in from across the country, from Hamburg to Munich, Freiburg to Stuttgart. 

Steiner and Kauf are planning to write a book on ‘mindful drinking’, an approach that promotes exercising caution with regards to our drinking habits. 

Isabella Steiner also recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that “we believe that 2021 will be the year of the non-alcoholic drink. Berlin is often where new trends are pre-cooked, or in our case pre-bottled, and diversity is always a talking point here – why does this not also apply to our drinking habits?”

According to the Federal Office of Statistics, German beer sales in 2020 were down 5.5 percent as compared with the previous year. The impact of bar closures and lockdowns can be seen in the sharp decrease in consumption, but sales in Germany have been falling for some time, with a 22.3 percent decrease since 1993.

The average consumption of sparkling wine and spirits also fell in 2020, by 2.1 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.

READ ALSO: Can Germany’s small breweries survive the shutdown?

Member comments

  1. Congrats and wishing success for the new concept store. While I personally wont be partaking in the alcohol free movement, it is exciting to see this available for my non-alcohol friends.

  2. This is great news! After quitting drinking in February last year, I’ve been trying to find great non-alcoholic beers and wines. I can’t wait to check it out!

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How to be an au pair in Germany during the pandemic

Working as an au pair can be a great way to experience the German language and culture, while saving money on living expenses. One British au pair in Berlin breaks down what she learned from the experience amid the corona crisis.

How to be an au pair in Germany during the pandemic
Archive photo shows an Italian au pair with a family in Bamberg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Nicolas Armer

An au pair will predominantly help a family with their childcare responsibilities, but may also be expected to undertake basic household duties like cooking and cleaning. In return for this work, you earn a monthly allowance and your host family will cover the cost of living and health insurance. 

Even at the best of times, however, many run into issues of privacy, separating work from their social lives and at times have their generosity taken advantage of. The pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges. 

Here’s what you need to know to make the best of the experience, even in the worst of times. 

Working hours

If you are spending time with the family out of hours, you might feel an obligation to help with cooking, clearing up and entertaining the children, meaning you work much longer than is healthy or legal. It is worth remembering that au pairs in Germany are legally only allowed to work six hours a day, and must have at least four evenings and one day off per week. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about teaching English in Germany

Many host families will assume that if their au pair is in the house, they are also free to help with household tasks and might ask you to carry out duties outside of normal hours. With Kitas (nurseries or kindergartens) and schools closed during much of the past year, families have turned to their au pairs for extra childcare. 

Though you may be met with expectations to work overtime, try to politely make it clear to your host family that you cannot always be at their beck and call.


For many, au pairing is a necessary financial decision and can be the only way to experience a new country at a young age. The au pair allowance in Germany is just 280 a month, despite the work often being quite gruelling.

For the legal working hours, this allowance means that au pairs earn just over 2 per hour in Germany and so should feel no responsibility to work overtime. The absence of rent, health insurance costs and other living expenses does mean that the allowance provides some freedom to explore the local culture – take advantage of this where you can. 

Choosing a family

One of the most important factors when deciding to work as an au pair is finding a family that you will get along well with. Most au pair websites have messaging features where you can get in touch with a family before you decide to travel. Arranging a video call is the best way to get a sense of your hosts. The site most people use to find a host family is Au Pair World.

It is perfectly acceptable to decline a family’s offer of work after meeting them; this is much less painful than suffering through months of household tensions.

Photo: DPA

At this time, it is important to remember to discuss the family’s expectations around you travelling and socialising while you are staying with them and to think about how you can still make the most of your time abroad.

When you are living alone or with younger people, it can feel easy to justify meeting up with other households. Living with a host family, particularly if any members of the household are vulnerable, can complicate this, so be aware of the extra responsibility you will hold.   


It is possible for most people to travel to Germany as an au pair within current guidelines, though you should be aware of up-to-date guidance as to whether you will need to quarantine or complete a test before or after travel. See the Ministry of Health’s current guidance on travelling to Germany. 

READ ALSO: When will Germany relax restrictions on international and domestic travel?


Au pairs from EU member states will not need a visa to work as an au pair in Germany. All you will need is to bring with you a passport or identity card and to register at the local Einwohnermeldeamt (residency office) where you should present your au pair contract. 

The process for au pairs travelling from further afield is slightly more laborious, and can take up to three months – giving an insight into German bureaucracy. You will need to present documents including your au pair contract and confirmation of insurance, and might be asked to provide proof of your German level. Au Pair World sets out the full guidelines here.

READ ALSO: How non-EU nationals can get a residency permit to live in Germany


When so much time is spent at home, the boundaries between work and family time can easily blur. Since moving to Berlin as an au pair at the end of February, I have had to spend much of my time at home due to Covid regulations. Though sharing a house is in many ways a blessing and means I can never go long without bumping into someone for a chat, it has been a struggle in terms of privacy. 

If your cooking and bathroom facilities are shared, as is the case for so many au pairs, you can feel a lot of pressure to socialise, even at times when you feel you need your own space. Since our movements and social lives have been so restricted over the past year, this pressure has only increased. 

How much time you spend with your host family is of course a matter of personal preference, but in my case it has been necessary to set out time to spend by myself.

Even if it is not explicitly exerted by a host family, au pairs can often feel pressure to be on their best behaviour, so taking time to relax is vital.