April 20, 2017 at 9:13 am PDT | by Paulo Murillo
Mix ‘N’ Mingle brings alcohol-free networking to WeHo

WeHo Chamber of Commerce’s Vic Gerami (left) and My 12 Step Store’s RJ Holguin (right)

“I love to network and socialize, but I have to admit I sometimes feel like an outsider when everyone has been drinking,” said Jacob N., a transplant from New York who works in the banking industry. “I try to leave before what my boyfriend calls the ‘alcohol crescendo,’ when the alcohol at an event starts to kick everything into high gear. It makes me feel isolated.”

For people like Jacob and others there’s a new option.

Recovery-themed gift shop, My 12 Step Store, has partnered with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (WHCC), WeHo’s Institute for Public Strategies and WeHo Safe Project to host an alcohol-free networking event.

Mix ‘N’ Mingle on the Blvd is scheduled to take place April 26, from 6-8 p.m. on the front lot of My 12 Step Store, at 8730 Santa Monica Boulevard.

WeHo is no stranger to networking mixers. The WHCC regularly hosts such events on the last Wednesday of each month. The mixers attract networking professionals from all over LA and they almost always take place at restaurants, clubs, bars or some alcohol-driven form of nightlife. Exchanging business cards with business owners, community leaders and locals, cocktail in hand, is almost a prerequisite at these mixers.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But West Hollywood is home to one of the nation’s largest and most active sober communities and many other people just feel more comfortable in alcohol-free social situations.

RJ Holguin, founder and director of marketing at My 12 Step Store, says the store has hosted several events in the past that have had successful turnouts, but he believes there’s an even bigger market for alcohol-free business events.

“We normally cater to a sober, 12-step/program-based crowd,” said Holguin. “We’re branching out for Mix ‘N’ Mingle and bringing in a more business-oriented group of people into our tent. By combining the non-alcoholic audience with our normal recovery following, we anticipate a larger turnout. We have more partners who are interested in participating in this unconventional mixer, so we want to go bigger.”

“We live in a city that has great revenue from businesses that sell alcohol to celebrate people’s lives,” Holguin added. “In many instances people forget how to socialize and mingle without being altered at some point and taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase their business in West Hollywood.”  

According to Holguin, the absence of liquor at Mix ‘N’ Mingle will not equate to a buttoned down affair with Bach playing in the background.

The event will be a lively, loud and festive affair. Sexy bartenders will serve mocktails provided by Mixwell. DJ Adam Excess will spin. KLEAN Treatment Center will provide hors d’oeuvres and a coffee truck. Cake Art will provide cupcakes. And WHCC has made sure the event is free to the public.

“West Hollywood’s institute for Public Strategies came up with the idea,” said WHCC Manager of Events, Vic Gerami, “This is just another professional mixer that happens to be alcohol-free. You don’t have to be sober or in a 12-step program to enjoy it and you don’t necessarily have to drink alcohol to have a good time.”

Gerami, who has been sober for almost 10 years, said the My 12 Step Store is the ideal location for Mix ‘N’ Mingle. The store is on the Boulevard a good walking distance from the bars and the West Hollywood Recovery Center, so you have the convenience and visibility, and the store is known for its positive messaging within the community.

Sober West Hollywood resident Dan Mryglot is keen on the idea of an alcohol-free mixer.

“I can understand how a mixer where there’s liquor involved can be distracting for some sober people,” he said. “A mixer with alcohol would have bothered me in my early recovery, but now that I’m over six years sober, I have learned to live life on life’s terms. This event addresses a need for an alternative way to network and mix in an atmosphere that offers more than just a place to go drink. You get to meet people. You get to eat, have a beverage, have fun and mingle without drinking.”

Holguin and Gerami agree that Mix ‘N’ Mingle could be the beginning of more alcohol-free mixers in West Hollywood’s future. “We see ourselves doing this again,” said Gerami.

“I want this to be the first of many. This is the first one we’ve tried and the feedback has been great. I want to keep making them fun and edgy. People really like what we are trying to do here. We have over 100 RSVPs a week into the event, which is the largest we’ve ever had for a mixer,” said Gerami.

“I feel that addiction – and recovery from addiction – is getting worldwide attention,” Holguin added. “The stigma of being sober is not the same, nor are there separations between drinking and non-drinking people that we once had. I believe there will be a need for more alcohol-free events like this.”

To RSVP for Mix ‘N’ Mingle on the Blvd, visit: wehochamber.com/events/Mix-n-Mingle-on-the-Boulevard-1466/

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