The idea to open Krave, a new kava bar in Carrboro, came to Elizabeth Gardner in a dream.
“One night, I had a dream, and I dreamed I was going to have a kava bar and name it Krave, and that’s what I did,” Gardner said.
But Gardner’s first experience with kava, a beverage made from the root of a plant grown in the South Pacific islands, came earlier.
“Four years ago, it was my birthday, and I wanted to celebrate and feel good, but with the bars, you can’t even talk to anybody, and everybody is just sloshed,” said Gardner, a Florida-based attorney and UNC alumna.
“I think I had court the next day, so I didn’t want to be hung over. So I typed in ‘alcohol alternatives’ into Google search, and this kava bar popped up, and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t even know what that is. I should try it.’ So a friend of mine and I went, and we tried it, and I just fell in love with it.”
Due to its calming and relaxing effects, kava is often considered a viable alternative to alcohol — one that won’t leave drinkers with a bad hangover the morning after consuming it. Kava had worked its magic on Gardner. Now, she felt, it was time to bring it back home.
“When I come home, there’s nothing but bars and bars and bars, and you go out and it seems like people don’t really even know each other and can’t hear each other,” Gardner said. “But a kava bar is different. When you go to a kava bar, you get to know people. Magical things happen at a kava bar that don’t happen anywhere else.”
Krave opened its doors at 105 W. Main St. in February with a grand opening held on March 28. It joins a small group of kava bars in North Carolina. While other shops are confined to either the mountains or the coast, Krave is the first kava bar to open in the center of the state, according to manager Josh Pardue.
Along with kava, the bar also serves ketum tea and yerba mate, two other beverages said to be associated with improved mental focus.
Krave’s Tiki theme and peaceful music were selected to create a tranquil and welcoming environment. The bar itself comes complete with power outlets at each seat, allowing customers to charge laptops and other electronic devices. Krave also has a large lounge area in the rear of the bar, featuring an array of couches, mood lighting and a projection screen displaying calming images, such as beach scenes.
Pardue said the bar’s relaxed, stress-free vibe is intended to complement the soothing properties of kava.
“It’s very chill and relaxed; everyone is very friendly,” Pardue said. “I’ve never heard of or seen anyone get in a fist fight at a kava bar.”
Pardue said he discovered kava after a series of back surgeries left him in frequent pain. He said kava provided him with a natural source of pain relief and praised the root’s mood-altering, but not overpowering, effects.
“It’s a relaxant. I’ve been told it helps with stress, anxieties and tensions,” Pardue said. “It does not sedate you or impair your faculties in any way.”
Patrick Stovall, a UNC senior, said that while he is not sure he would substitute kava for alcohol on a regular basis, he appreciates that Krave provides an alternative to the bar scene in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s meant to steer you away from a normal bar,” Stovall said. “It just seems like another option, a daytime thing.”
For Gardner, a Hillsborough native, Carrboro seemed like the obvious choice of location to open her first kava bar.
“We’ve got undergraduates and graduates with hipsters and old people who come in who might have an ache or a pain, and they take it,” Gardner said. “There’s a whole big mix of people that are brought together by a root that’s natural — and that, to me, is beautiful.”
“And that’s like Carrboro. Carrboro is like a patch-up quilt of all these cultures and people that think outside the box, and that’s what draws them all together, and that’s why I think it fits with a kava bar,” Gardner said. “A kava bar is a beautiful mashup of things in the same way.”
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