More people want to celebrate life sober than Chris Reed ever imagined.
Media outlets and public officials throughout the nation are calling him. People whom he hasn't seen in years are looking him up.
And it's all because of a simple idea that developed when he and his friends would gather on the weekends. They'd shoot pool, play cards, listen to music. Recovering alcohol and drug addicts mainly in their 20s, the group didn't feel comfortable going to bars.
So many started coming that the group decided to open The Other Side in Crystal Lake, the area's first nonalcoholic bar geared toward adults. Or, as organizers call it, it's a sober bar.
With a Grand Opening scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, The Other Side at 93 E. Berkshire Drive, Unit G, Crystal Lake, has caught the attention of supporters throughout the community and elsewhere.
"It's kind of surreal," said 22-year-old Reed, who originally used the warehouse space where The Other Side will open for his small construction company. "I don't know. It just went like nationwide pretty quickly. It's just been crazy. I just didn't think it would be that big."
BlackBook Magazine in New York featured The Other Side, as well as outlets such as MSNBC and Fox News.
So many people are expected at the Grand Opening that Reed is scrambling to accommodate more. The bar can only fit about 250 people, while he said 600 to 700 might show up.
He likely will put some tents and tables outside the bar on opening night.
"We're going to have to improvise the whole outside thing," Reed said. "There's no doubt in my mind we're going to clear occupancy."
Reed, a heroin addict who's been sober about three and a half years, joined with his friends, most of whom are recovering addicts, to form New Directions Addiction Recovery Services. The nonprofit group will serve as sort of an umbrella over The Other Side.
It is their hope the group one day creates a half-way house for recovering addicts in this area, where they say similar services are limited.
The area does have services for addicts, such as The Advantage Group Foundation and the P.R.I.S.M treatment centers in Crystal Lake, as well as an outpatient rehab program through Centegra Behavioral Health.
But their goal is to open a place were recovering addicts can live until they're ready to make it on their own.
Reed predicts once they get The Other Side up and running, a half-way house will follow.
"We're trying to hit the problem before, during and after at all stages," said Joe Bongiovanni, who has become marketing director for New Directions.
"I know we're going to do it," he said of the half-way house. "It's just a matter of time."
Along with the source of entertainment it provides recovering addicts, The Other Side will serve as a place for networking as well as an opportunity to help fight the stigma often associated with a sober lifestyle, they say.
So far, the group has gotten more support than they know what to do with right now, including volunteers who've worked to renovate the space. They're focused now on finishing up the needed improvements required by the city to host the opening.
They've added a bar area, bathrooms, heating and air conditioning units, a bar, a small stage, lighting and other improvements. They plan to host bands and DJs.
"It's really exciting. We've hit obstacle after obstacle we've managed to overcome," Bongiovanni said. "I'm ready to go."By JAMI KUNZER - firstname.lastname@example.org