With its cozy couches, art-covered walls, friendly staff, and welcoming atmosphere, Fairfield’s Noble House Kava Bar has become something of a community hub. Dedicated to providing a safe space for everyone in the community, Noble House opened in April 2022 at 115 N. Main St., in the former location of Hazel Moon Cafe. It offers the camaraderie of a bar without the alcohol, instead using botanical elixirs to liven the night or to help patrons unwind after a long day, according to owner and potions master Brian Nickol.
“I believe strongly that both our space and our products have something to offer people in all walks of life,” says Nickol, who owns and manages Noble House with his wife, Susan Misuraca. “I firmly believe you’d be hard pressed to find another place like ours in the state,” he says.
In addition to creating a welcoming hangout spot, Noble House offers a full roster of free community events, from weekly trivia nights, karaoke nights, and themed crafting events to monthly poetry open mics, comedy open mics, rap open mics, musical guests, and performance art. Thanks to a donated pool table and expansion into a back room that was formerly a dance studio, Noble House now has a regular group of pool players. The back room hosts larger events, such as full-band concerts and gaming tournaments.
Noble House strives to offer a space for those in recovery from alcohol or other addictions to “socialize without the pressures of consumption,” Nickol says. Providing a safe, supportive space for people dealing with addictions is something of a personal mission for Nickol, who has dealt with alcohol addiction in the past. “I want to give people like myself, who used to drink and no longer do, the ability to still have a fairly normal-looking nightlife,” he explains. “And I want to give people who haven’t ever considered drinking less or stopping drinking another option to ponder.”
Nickol and Misuraca met in Asheville, North Carolina, where he had moved from Memphis. He says he was exactly a year sober from alcohol, and their second date was at a kava bar, an atmosphere he thoroughly enjoyed.
“I had conversations with people who could empathize with my experience as an addict, who could carry on intelligent and thoughtful conversations,” he says. “Nobody’s drunk. Nobody’s belligerent. It just seems so important for people to know that’s an option. That you can go out at night and be around smart, interesting people and have a social life without alcohol being anywhere in the picture.”
When Nickol and Misuraca came up to Fairfield for a wedding a few years ago, they felt it was the perfect place to set up a kava bar.
Used as a medicinal herb in the South Pacific islands for centuries, kava (Piper methysticum) is a tall shrub with heart-shaped leaves. The roots are traditionally brewed as a tea and consumed as part of social and ceremonial rituals. Kava is called yaqona in Fiji, awa in Hawaii, and “grog” by Aboriginal tribes. Valued for its ability to help people relax and unwind when consumed responsibly, kava can aid in stress relief, and it has a long cultural history as a social lubricant.
The main active ingredients in kava root are called kavalactones (kava pyrones). Nickol, who has been interested in plant medicine since his teen years, explains that, in pharmacological language, “kava is a GABA agonist, so it helps alleviate stress and helps people feel more open.” At a kava bar, he says, there is a cultural shift. Instead of a space centered around alcohol and intoxication, it becomes focused on people, kindness, openness, and connection.
The other medicinal plant on the Noble House menu is kratom. An evergreen tree related to the coffee plant scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, kratom is native to Southeast Asia. Kratom leaves have been used for centuries to increase energy levels and enhance focus and alertness. Kratom can also be used for pain relief. Nickol says kratom can be seen as touchier because it is a dependent substance, but it is no more addictive than caffeine, and many people use it regularly for pain management with no negative issues. While Nickol will serve kava to someone under 18 with parental consent, he won’t serve kratom to anyone under 18, explaining, “I don’t think kids should do anything that is messing with their neurochemistry—no matter how subtle.”
Noble House is committed to sustainability and sources their high-quality kava and kratom products from reputable suppliers. In addition to cold-brewed kava and kratom, their menu includes house-brewed soda (limited special-batch brews are announced on Instagram) as well as an array of herbal teas, coffee, non-alcoholic bottled drinks, and vegan desserts, baked goods, and snacks. They’ve also hosted themed food pop-ups and potlucks, and are working on setting up a canning facility for their house-made beverages.
As part of their commitment to being a true community space, virtually all of the art on their walls is by local artists, and they have racks of locally designed and upcycled clothing sold on consignment.
Nickol and Misuraca are happy they have created a popular, supportive space that facilitates community building.
“Community is really, really important. And I think it’s harder to manifest than it used to be, before the age of terminal online activity,” says Nickol. “It’s ironic—we all have access to most of the world’s collective information in our pocket. And somehow that has made us all as isolated as we’ve ever been. Spaces like these are huge for community. These are places that can really bring people together and forge connection, or deepen it. I think that’s a very valuable resource in this day and age.”
Noble House would like to thank Hannah Nichols, without whose initial efforts none of this would have been possible.