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Non-alcoholic beer, ‘mocktails’ offer a party without the booze

Walk into any local bar and you’ll see plenty of people with drinks in their hands. But is there alcohol in that glass?

There’s a growing – albeit small – trend in the market for non-alcoholic beers and “mocktails” as some people want to enjoy the flavor of their drinks without the buzz.

“Some people want to go out and have a delicious, fancy drink but don’t want to get drunk and don’t want to spend as much money,” said Jessica Lavelle, the head bartender at Presidents Pub in Washington.

Her restaurant specializes in serving craft cocktails, but in recent years began creating “mocktails” – which have all the specialty ingredients except alcohol – for people who want to feel like they’re part of the party but don’t want the booze. The restaurant has even created a “mocktail” flight that offers four specialty drinks that are catered to the time of year with seasonal recipes.

“They want to have an enjoyable, fun time,” Lavelle said. “It just gives people the option to go out and have a fun time and enjoy their cocktails while not actually having a cocktail.”

Lavelle said the drinks are popular year-round, although they do see an uptick this month as some people have decided to abstain from drinking through the “Dry January” trend. The restaurant also offers a non-alcoholic beer that tastes similar to an IPA.

According to a study by NielsenIQ, non-alcoholic beverage sales grew by more than 20% from 2021 to 2022 and accounted for nearly $400 million in revenue in the United States. Non-alcoholic beer accounted for about 85% of those sales, which is still a relative drop in the pint glass compared to the estimated $261 billion in alcohol sales in the United States last year.

Holly Martin, a psychologist at New Directions Counseling in North Strabane, said she’s seen more of a niche market for non-alcoholic options recently. But she cautioned that non-alcoholic drink options should never be a substitute for people with addition issues who are trying to remain sober.

“People who have a concern or a problem with alcohol use, that is not a good option. It really just triggers them to want the real thing,” said Martin, who specializes in treating addiction. “If you have the disease of addiction, you’re not going to fool it with a ‘mocktail.’ You’re just not. People who are in recovery, it’s just not worth of a risk.”

Martin said she’s noticed that more and more people aren’t pressuring their friends to drink alcohol in social settings, unlike in the past. So for people who do not have a problem with substance abuse, Martin said a non-alcoholic drink can be an option for someone who wants to go out and have a good time with friends.

“People are more cautious with what they’re doing, but they do want to feel like they’re a part of their friends and feel like they’re having a good time. There’s more and more of that,” Martin said. “Some people want to feel like they fit in (and) I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not going to hurt them.”

That’s the mindset of Holly Tonini, who doesn’t drink alcohol but still enjoys going out with friends. She said not having a “mocktail” option at restaurants sometimes makes her feel left out.

“I’d love for ‘mocktails’ to become more of a thing,” Tonini said. “I get bummed when I go to a restaurant or place that is known for fancy drinks and I’m told my only options are soda, water, juice or tea.”

The New Eagle resident was excited to hear places like Presidents Pub can offer her that choice, and she planned to make a visit there soon.

“I’ll have to make the trip now,” she said. “That sounds really cool.”

Lavelle said they’ll be ready to serve whatever their customers want to drink.

“It’s a little easier,” Lavelle said about pouring a non-alcoholic specialty drink. “You just have one less ingredient. It’s all the same motions just without the liquor.”

Joe Hardy, business titan and philanthropist, dies at 100

Joe Hardy III, a business titan and philanthropist who turned a small cash-and-carry lumberyard business in Eighty Four, Washington County, into the nation’s largest privately held building materials supplier, died Saturday, January 7, 2023, his 100th birthday.

Hardy, who founded 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County, was remembered by his family as a brilliant businessman and entrepreneur who valued his family and people.

A statement released on behalf of the family by the company said, “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Joseph A. Hardy, III. The Hardy family lost their patriarch and all-around great man. Many knew Joe as a brilliant businessman and enthusiastic entrepreneur. Even with his vast success, Joe always remembered what matters most: people. He helped make the American dream real for so many, and he will be greatly missed. Joe proved that nothing is impossible by willing himself to his 100th birthday. His family is beyond proud of him for making this final accomplishment.”

Hardy was born in Upper St. Clair in 1923, during the Great Depression.

He served in the Army Air Corps as a radioman during World War II, and later, he sold vegetables and worked at his father’s jewelry store, Hardy & Hayes, while he earned an engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Hardy opened Green Hills Lumber when he was 31 years old. In 1956, Hardy, his brothers and some partners opened the first 84 Lumber store, selling to home builders in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Hardy grew the company over the decades, opening new stores across America using a “no-frills” model. Today, there are nearly 250 stores in 31 states.

In 1985, Hardy’s success landed him on the Forbes 400 list of the country’s wealthiest people, and in 1987, he was elected by Venture Magazine as the Entrepreneur of the Year.

That same year, Hardy bought a 2,000-acre resort and hotel complex in the Laurel Highland that he developed into the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, which features a historic hotel, a spa, the five-star restaurant Lautrec, an extensive art collection, the Mystic Rock golf course, a zoo, and outdoor activities including fly-fishing.

In 1992, Hardy turned over control of the businesses to his daughter, Maggie Hardy Knox. The relentlessly driven businessman remained involved in the company and pursued other ventures, and in 2017, he founded the real estate development firm Hardy World, LLC.

In 2004, Hardy was chosen as Philanthropist of the Year by the Washington County Community Foundation. In an interview with the Observer-Reporter that year, he said, “My philosophy is to die broke.”

He was a champion for the community and region, donating millions to charities, colleges, hospitals, and organizations and pouring millions of dollars into revitalization projects in Uniontown.

Said Betsie Trew, President and CEO of WCCF, “I did have the great fortune of meeting him, and one of the things that stuck out for me is all the money he gave – and it was an extraordinary dollar amount – the things that touched his heart were anything for veterans, people down and out and trying to make their lives better, and community-minded things. Maggie continues that. They invest themselves into this community and the communities where they have stores, and each of those communities is bettered because of their commitment to community. There is a long list of charities that have benefited significantly from Joe’s generosity over the years.”

Hardy was elected to the Fayette County Board of Commissioners – he donated his $46,000 salary to a food bank – and served as vice chairman from 2004 to 2007.

Fayette County Commissioner Dave Lohr acknowledged Hardy’s impact in the region, including providing substantial funding for the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport, and noted Hardy’s contributions to veterans’ causes.

“He always had a good heart for the community, and it showed in everything he’s provided for it,” said Lohr. “All of the donations he contributed are one thing; on the economic side and tourism side of it, Nemacolin contributes a huge amount of income and the number of employees he’s employed, you could go on forever about what he meant here.”

He’s known for never cutting corners and doing things the right way; he was a sticker for that.

The brash, cigar-chomping billionaire’s philosophy was “Nothing is impossible,” a phrase Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, recalls Hardy repeating often.

“There is no question that Mr. Hardy was a big personality. But to achieve the level of success that he did, you have to demonstrate confidence in one’s value, abilities and believe that ‘nothing is impossible’, as I remember him saying on several occasions. Yet, I also found he had a great sense of humanity about him, taking interest in others and sharing his success with our community. His confidence always impressed me, but his concern for others is what I respected about him,” said Kotula.

Laural Ziemba, director of public affairs at Range Resources, worked at Hardy’s King of the Hill Restaurant and his real estate management firm, A&F Real Estate, after graduating from college and said she has used much of what she learned from Hardy in both her personal and professional life.

“His over-the-top way of commanding an audience and unabashed tendency to deliver a blistering review of your performance would intimidate anyone, let alone a kid with little business experience. Despite the knots that would form in my stomach when I’d see his black BMW make the right turn of Bentleyville’s Main Street to approach the office, I relished every moment spent with him as he doled out priceless business and leadership advice,” said Ziemba. “Ultimately, Mr. Hardy was tough on you, not because he thought you couldn’t take it, but because he knew you could, and that grit would help you succeed throughout your career, whether it be on his team or beyond.”

Hardy is survived by his wife, Jodi, eight children, three step-children, and 15 grandchildren.