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An inside look at what Roots has to offer. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

By Carolyn Sackstein

The owner of Roots Kava Bar, Robert Dunn, celebrated the grand opening of Port Jefferson’s newest drinking establishment with family and friends when he opened the doors at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19. 

The enthusiastic crowd mingled about and enjoyed the cozy and comfortable seating in the kava pub’s back lounge and front self-serve area. 

Robert Dunn inside the new Roots Kava Bar in Port Jeff. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

Most guests knew about kava, a beverage used as a replacement for alcohol. The owner wanted to create an environment where people, who do not use alcohol, could socialize over drinks and not experience the detrimental effects of alcohol. The decor is a pleasing mix of black walls, metal and wood. The serving bar is a natural plank with a live edge which echoes the natural theme of the beverages.

For the uninitiated, kava is a drink made from the root of the kava kava plant (Piper methysticum) which originates in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands. 

Kava is touted to alleviate stress, help with chronic pain, boost mood, increase energy and focus. The root is ground into a powder, steeped in water, then filtered. Kava has sedative and anesthetic properties that can produce a numbing sensation within the lips and mouth.

A sense of calm or euphoria is experienced by those who imbibe. Kava has been used in Fiji, Hawaii and elsewhere for perhaps as long as 3,000 years in religious and welcoming ceremonies for honored guests. 

The flavor of the raw drink has an earthy, rather grassy taste. Many find the taste quite pleasant. For those who do not like the raw taste, Dunn or Alyssa Chaikin, the bar manager, will be happy to customize the serve by adding flavorings like lemon or raspberry syrups. One popular choice is the cinnamon toast option. The kava bar also serves commercially produced kava and kratom beverages in cans and bottles. 

On Sunday afternoon, a family came in with their two children. Because of the sedative properties of the root, the only beverage that could be served to the children was kombucha. The children enjoyed the commercially produced bottle of this fermented nonalcoholic beverage. Dunn is exploring the addition of a greater selection of products to suit a wider audience, but the focus is on an adult clientele who wish to chill with friends over an adult beverage while avoiding alcohol and its ill effects. 

Guests can purchase a 12 oz. bottle or a growler ($5 bottle deposit) of the in-house prepared beverages so that they can be enjoyed at home. One can also purchase brand-name products such as Leilo, Kin Euphorics, Psychedelic Water and Stay Cool CBD.

The patrons on Sunday afternoon felt quite pleased with their experience. Angela Contratti of Nesconset had a bula bowl. “I feel a little floaty,” she said. “It’s a really nice alternative to alcohol. My expectations were low coming in here, but I am leaving feeling ‘wow.’”

Roots’ new sign hangs where BYOG and East Main & Main used to be. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

As with all herbal supplements and nutraceuticals, one must bear in mind that there are concerns relative to purity and adverse interactions with medications one might be taking. Dunn uses kava root powders that have been tested by a third-party lab to ensure quality. He and his staff happily provide patrons with product information and describe the effects that one may experience from using the drinks. 

People who have medical conditions, are pregnant or lactating, or taking medications are warned to consult their health care provider to determine contra indications or adverse drug interactions. According to Bill Hatfield, a licensed clinical social worker, who has for years counseled clients who are in recovery for addiction, suggests people should be cautious about trying kratom. While kratom is currently legal in New York state, it is his experience that clients, who were clean for a significant period, relapsed after trying kratom. That said, the kava bar seems to be enjoying a positive buzz within the community.

Roots Kava Bar is located at 250 E. Main St., Port Jefferson. The hours of operation are noon to midnight. Holidays may have altered hours. For additional information call 631-831-4887.