alcohol vaping

An alcohol vaping machine. 

Roundup Bar owner, law enforcement officials warn others of its dangers

Curt Woldengen, owner of the Roundup Bar in Hampton, said on Wednesday that he should have done his homework before buying a $2,000 alcohol vaping machine online and installing it at his Dakota County bar.

Woldengen said he was shocked when he found out the machine was illegal in Minnesota about a month ago when a Dakota County deputy and agent with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division confiscated the machine and levied a $1,000 fine on him.

“I was shocked to learn it is potentially dangerous to customers,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday. “I would never do anything to jeopardize the health of our customers.”

DPS was alerted to the presence of the machine at the Roundup Bar from an anonymous tip.

Woldengen said he bought the machine online after hearing about it from a bar owner in Wisconsin, where the devices are legal.

Woldengen, who took over ownership about a year ago at the business that’s been in his family since 1971, said he bought the machine as the “new biggest thing” in an effort to attract customers.

He said all kinds of patrons, young and old, tried out the machine, which he said seemed to be fun for them.

A City Pages report from June 2019 said one device can spray a mist version of alcohol into a balloon that is then sucked in by the user. The report said one balloon contains the equivalent of two and half shots of alcohol.

Woldengen, who said he’s given sober rides home to many of his patrons, said he saw no one getting overly intoxicated on the mist.

He said he received an instruction manual with the machine.

DPS organized the Oct. 30 press conference in an effort to get bar owners and patrons better informed about the illegal nature of the machines and their potential danger.

Special agent Terry Kelley, DPS-AGED, said the press conference came about as an idea after Woldengen’s experience and having paid his fine.

Woldengen said he wants to help educate those in the industry about Minnesota’s law that bans alcohol vaping machines.

DPS said it has emailed the Minnesota alcohol industry to warn establishments about the illegal device.

Under Minnesota law, it is illegal for any person or business establishment to possess, purchase, sell, offer to sell, or use any type of device or machine for the purpose of inhaling alcoholic beverages. Violations could result in administrative civil penalties and/or criminal charges.

Kelley said alcohol mist machines were not developed at the time the law was created in 2006, but the devices are covered under the law that aimed to stop the inhalation of alcohol powder, which was happening at the time.

He said the agency is willing to work with bar owners to have the devices removed to comply with the law. He said they aren’t looking so much for levying enforcement actions as they are about getting the machines out of circulation.

Dr. Ann Arens, Minnesota Poison Control System, emergency medicine physician at Hennepin Healthcare, said there have been no studies done about the health effects of vaping alcohol.

She said she couldn’t provide information on how much alcohol mist it would take to intoxicate someone or make a person illegal to drive in Minnesota.

Arens said she doesn’t know what effect alcohol mist has the brain or lungs.

She said lungs are a major organ that are designed to exchange oxygen and not be exposed to chemicals or alcohol.

Arens said she is not aware of any testing that’s been done on humans as to the effects of inhaling alcohol mist.

The press conference is on YouTube at https://youtu.be/8aT754P0xJ0.

Tad Johnson is at tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.

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