Andy Smith, general manager of the Sycamore in German Village, helped spearhead the nonprofit’s expansion to Columbus.

Earlier this year, after Sycamore general manager Andy Smith read an industry trade article about Ben’s Friends, a restaurant support group for those struggling with substance abuse, he felt compelled to reach out to the nonprofit organization, which is based in Charleston, South Carolina, inquiring about the possibility of starting a chapter in Columbus. What he didn’t anticipate is that the group’s leadership would respond quickly in the affirmative, and also ask him to lead the charge.

“And I was like, ‘Shit,’” Smith said in an early September interview at a German Village coffee shop several blocks from the Sycamore, where you’ll find him on most nights.

As regulars can attest, it’s rare to catch the affable Smith, a restaurant industry veteran, at such a loss for words. Since getting clean in 2006, Smith has also maintained a constant dialogue around his sobriety, both online and in speaking engagements, which he described as essential to his recovery. As a result, he doesn’t pull any punches when discussing the details that finally led him to get clean — a decision that wasn’t entirely his choice.

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