Elizabeth Gardner, UNC alumna and owner of Krave, said she found kava on her birthday when she wanted an alternative to drinking alcohol.
“I really didn’t want to go to a regular bar and watch people drink themselves to death,” Gardner said. “I can drink kava, and I don’t feel a hangover the next day.”
Kava is made from a plant grown in the South Pacific islands. Native cultures have long used it as a ceremonial drink and a source of relaxation and socialization.
After trying kava at a lounge with her friend, Gardner said she started to feel really good during dinner later that night.
“That feeling I wanted to bring back here because Chapel Hill doesn’t have anything like this,” Gardner said. “When I came here to visit, there was nothing but bars.”
Krave — the first kava bar in the Triangle — serves exotic root and tea beverages including kava, yerba mate and ketum. While kava comes from the pepper family, yerba mate comes from the holly tree family and ketum comes from the coffee family. People say that kava relaxes, while both yerba mate and ketum are said to energize.
“You can come in here and feel good and relax, or feel stimulated — whichever one you choose,” Gardner said.
At Krave, a single kava is $5, a single tea is $5 and the yerba mates range from $2 to $5.
Gardner said the building at 105 W. Main St. needed a lot of work. Every person who worked on the renovations went to high school with her.
“It makes me feel proud to have everyone’s touch blended into this for a positive thing,” Gardner said.
Krave is split into two sections — the bar area in the front and the lounge area in the back. Outlets along the bar allow customers to power their laptop while a huge projector in the back lounge shows peaceful videos.
“I want the experience to make you feel good on the inside and on the outside,” Gardner said. “You can come here and disengage from out there as soon as you shut that door, or you can be social and talk to everyone.”
Josh Pardue, operations manager at Krave, went on his first date with Gardner to a kava bar. He said he’s been to a few bars since then that he wasn’t impressed with.
“Every kava bar has its own vibe,” Pardue said. “We wanted a little bit more of a higher class — a little more of a classy look to our bar.”
Gardner and Pardue said they would only serve their products to customers over the age of 18, even though there are no laws against the serving of kava.
“Laws in the country say a parent is responsible for a child legally until 18 years of age,” Gardner said. “So I don’t want to serve somebody something and have their parent get mad about it for their own reasons or beliefs.”
Gardner said her goal is to change the minds of those who are stuck in the notion that nothing besides beer can make them feel good.
“Honestly, I would love for other people who are reliant on alcohol and other prescription medication to be able to utilize natural substances to improve their health,” she said.
Angie Francalancia, public relations coordinator for Krave, said the lounge was very quiet at first and now the response has been growing.
“It’s taking a little bit of effort to get some knowledge of kava in the area,” she said. “It has got a following across the state, but it has not been accessible in the Triangle.”
Krave is open from noon to midnight each day. A grand opening party will be held on Saturday with hula dancers, catered food and some free samples.
Pardue said the great thing about the environment of the lounge is that it brings people together.
“You can have four different people who don’t know each other, who live in this town sitting here and by the time they leave, they all know each other’s names because they’ve been conversing for an hour,” he said.