Sacred Root Kava Bar offers alternative nightlife to Ithaca residents

May 02, 2016 No Comments by

by Arlana Shikongo and Aaron Laramee

“I come to the Kava bar for a variety of reasons but probably the top reason is that it is a safe place for me to come and be social and not have to deal with alcohol,” said Becki Hawley, an Ithaca local who enjoys visiting the Kava Lounge rather than traditional bars for socializing.

Kava, a sedative drink made in Polynesia from the crushed roots of a plant of the pepper family (Piper methysticum), has recently become the alternative to alcohol consumables. The Sacred Root Kava Lounge and Tea Bar offers a setting of hand-drawn murals adorning the entrance walls and the fragrance of incense lingering in the air.

Sacred Root Kava Lounge and Tea Bar in downtown Ithaca offers an alternative to the traditional nightlife that many people associate with going out on a Friday night. Sacred Root opened its doors 18 months ago with the hopes of attracting those seeking alternative means to socializing.

Owner of the Kava Lounge, Paul Galgoczy, wants to dispel the misconceptions associated with kava. He suggested that many of the misconceptions exist within the minds of college students who aren’t familiar with kava. Galgoczy said the rumors of psychedelic effects are unfounded, and that kava’s effects are mild.  

“The roots of kava use traces back to parts of Asia,” he said. “So kava, as it’s been used for 3,000 years in the South Pacific, is a tradition for the native people as it grows indigenously.”

Donald Sylvester Murdoch IV is a regular at the Kava Lounge and said people are embracing the growing kava culture in Ithaca. He is a self-professed regular at Sacred Root and hopes to keep it that way.  

“We have a great community down here in terms of spiritual-minded folk who want to escape from the real world for a little while, and be nice and grow a little bit with one another.”

Similarly to Hawley, Murdoch says that the community aspect of the Kava Lounge is one of the things that keeps him coming back.

“We talk about problems, we listen, we have a lot of fun, children are often running around laughing and playing,” Murdoch said. “It’s one of my little homes away from home.”

Locals that have heard about the alternative drink are still cautious about trying kava because of its reputation regarding both its effects and taste, something many liken to dirt, Galgoczy said. However, Sacred Root offers alternatives to traditional kava, including coconut and apple spice flavored mixes. These flavors are generally offered to those who aren’t familiar with kava or those trying it for the first time, as the ‘earthy’ flavor is not as overwhelming.

Galgoczy says that Kava’s appeal is not just social, but physical as well. He explains that it induces feelings of relaxation and euphoria. According to Galgoczy, it is a very social drink that  creates positive emotional and social interactions.

“[Kava] naturally promotes conversation, it makes you want to talk and be more social with people, and it helps people overcome social anxiety and nervousness, but you’re very clear minded and focused,” he said. “It gives you a deeper empathetic awareness of the people around you.”

Galgoczy says that one of the many reasons to drink kava is that the effects are generally positive, whereas the effects of alcohol are often negative.

“Kava opens your heart, whereas when you drink alcohol you become more into yourself and less conscious of other people, so consequently […] people become less present, less thoughtful, less kind,” he said.

Hawley said the bar’s environment allows for conversation about issues that are of relevance and significance, as opposed to the superficial interactions she has had in conventional settings.  

“It just always seems so superficial. When I come here, I get to talk to people about things that really matter to me,” she said.

Hawley also explained that the bar’s community is very inclusive, accepting and supportive, and creates a comfortable, safe place to destress and interact with like-minded people.

“What I really enjoy about this kava bar is that the owners, Judi and Paul, are very very interested in really nurturing and cultivating community,” she said.

Galgoczy hopes that Sacred Root can foster not just good-natured fun, but community expression as well.  

“We wanted to create a space where people feel as though they can be their creative selves, whether it’s through art, music, poetry, some kind of performance,”Galgoczy said. “We’re always trying to do events that engage people.”

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