Cafe by day,
sober bar by night.

Delicious Coffee for a Great Cause

See the meeting schedule on our "Events" page.

The Other Side’s mission is to support the recovery process at all stages, keeping sobriety as easy and as enjoyable as possible.

Our coffee shop is part of a wide network of services for the community by our parent organization, New Directions Addiction Recovery Services (NDARS). The story of The Other Side begins with the story of NDARS.

Thomas Johnson and his father, Thomas W. Johnson, Sr. founded NDARS in May 2010 to provide the recovery community with a comprehensive support system that didn’t begin and end with a circle of folding chairs in a church.

Chris Reed started a construction company after becoming sober in 2009, and this company leased a warehouse with a whopping 2500 square feet of space. Those who’d helped Chris along his journey to sobriety frequented the space, especially after their 12-step meetings.

Over time, this warehouse continued to be a great place for Chris and his friends to hang out and unwind. They built it into a place where likeminded individuals, who were in recovery or otherwise, could enjoy fun, stigma-free get-togethers.

As the first sober bar in Illinois, The Other Side is dedicated to providing members of the recovery community with an alcohol-free, positive space to socialize and let off steam. Patrons can relax and have a good time without the pressures or risks of a typical pub.

When we started, we struggled to generate enough revenue to fund operations on behalf of the recovery community. But dedicated donors and members helped raise money for us to continue operations as well as hosting AA meetings, support groups, comedy shows, DJs, youth events and trivia nights.

Moving to Crystal Lake, IL

In 2010, as Jimmy Kimmel joked about us being Illinois’ first sober bar, “These guys are essentially opening a basement.” From these humble but strong beginnings, we’ve learned a lot, and we continue to grow as an organization.

Oddly enough, the Covid-19 pandemic allowed us to pursue the passion project of which we’d always dreamt, presenting an opportunity for us to transition from the original warehouse to our new coffee shop in Crystal Lake. By 2020, we’d finally graduated from our warehouse to the “adult version” of what we’d wanted all along.

Our purchase of the new property was also made possible by a substantial legacy donation that was enough for a down payment, general furnishing and hiring staff, all of which would lift our enterprise off the ground. We remained closed for over a year to navigate all the trials and tribulations of opening a new coffee shop.

As you can imagine, operational success had its limitations, but the move presented lots of benefits. We had a nicer space in a central part of town that could separate support meetings from a genuine coffee shop, as there was plenty of office space in the back.

Most importantly, we could prepare food on-site for the first time. Installing our kitchen was a big deal because we didn’t have much experience with cooking or general contracting. For years, people would leave The Other Side to get food elsewhere. Now, with a kitchen, we’re able to meet that demand.

We can’t deny that we experienced some setbacks with a side of malaise, but after getting Chris Jacob onboard, we were able to reopen on December 3rd, 2022. As a general manager, he’s passionate about creating an eventful sober space for the whole community enjoy. While building a great team at The Other Side, he aims to keep quality and service as top priorities.

What We Do

We focus on three major services for patrons in Crystal Lake. Great food is the bottom line, but it’s not all we have to offer. Here’s how our high-quality coffee shop brings people together.

Picture of espresso available at The Other Side coffee shop in Crystal Lake

A Great Menu

Our Crystal Lake coffee shop sells tasty flatbreads, salads and sandwich options as well as espresso drinks, including lattes, cortados and Americanos. For afternoon and evening crowds, we present kombucha and mocktails.

Patrons can enjoy quick bites and drinks in comfortable seating while watching our T.V.s. Whatever you purchase, remember that your money is going straight to the recovery community.

A Meeting Space in Crystal Lake

Note that this space is separate from the café. For $15/hr., you can rent this nice, quiet space whose schedule for availability is on our website.  You can also request catering for the space, whether you’d like a coffee dispenser or a tray of food.

Not only does this make a perfect meeting space in Crystal Lake for the recovery community, but it may be beneficial to other organizations, including nonprofits, civic groups, network meetings and even birthday parties. Again, all proceeds go straight to the recovery community.

A Welcoming Community

Our community is bigger than the recovery community. Anyone can come in and feel welcome.

The Other Side is a place where people genuinely enjoy learning about each other’s interests and passions. Our community’s different stakeholders include donors of all sizes, local government entities and partner nonprofits.

It’s a place for fellowship as well as friendship, presenting plenty of opportunities for recreation and professional networking. We’re happy to host live music, comedians, trivia, Sunday night football and fundraisers. We’re always looking for more fun events to host.

Today, The Other Side is a perfect place to grab a cup of coffee or an egg sandwich, and it supports the recovery process for those who want to enjoy a better relationship with drinking. It’s among few spots where customers can socialize without substances.

Helping Our Mission

The Other Side is the project that started New Directions Addiction Recovery Services. NDARS was handed down to us, and we put it on the map with our sober bar in a warehouse. Since this initial project, NDARS has evolved into the several subgroups we have today.

Through generous donations over the years, we could establish two sober homes for men and one for women so that more people could enjoy the structure and support necessary to begin the recovery journey.

Later, in partnership with A Way Out, we established a 24/7 support hotline for relapse and recovery to provide guidance and assist those seeking treatment. We’d gradually take over this project on McHenry county’s behalf.

Once we had our hotline and sober homes down to a science, we opened our first “¾-living” home, which is an affordable place for people to go after recovering in genuine sober homes. There are no curfews or advisers present, but all tenants are recovering people who want to stay dry.

Next, we took possession of the old Pioneer Homeless Shelter, which provided two buildings to use as affordable alternatives for treatment among people without insurance.

The Other Side’s migration to this coffee shop is only our most recent project. Our future goal is to partner with local stakeholders to fund and construct more “¾-living” homes.

These efforts are where your dollars go when you enjoy coffee at The Other Side. You can make a direct impact on people recovering from addiction and substance abuse.

With enough donations, sober homes can eventually support themselves because finding jobs for newly sober people is also part of our mission. When they get jobs, they can pay the fees to maintain their sober home instead of needing donations.

To support our expansive network of sober living, please pay us a visit, host a lunch or order online.