Earlier this year, Werd Bar in Milwaukee claimed to be the first establishment in the state to offer vape shots, which consists of inhaling a little party balloon full of alcoholic mist. Each balloon, according to Werd, is supposed to be the equivalent of “two and a half shots” and costs $8.
That’s all with the help of Vapshot’s Alcohol MIST PRO machine, which kind of looks like the love child of the two robots in Wall-E—if such a creature could be bought for $8,000 and attached to calorie-free booze balloons.
If this description makes vaping alcohol sound like a hell of a good time to you, you’re not alone. Curt Woldengen, owner of the Roundup Bar in Hampton, thought so, too. He heard about the new fad from a friend in Wisconsin.
“He told me it was the new biggest thing,” he said. “People were having fun.”
Last summer, he got online and bought the Roundup one of its own for about $2,000. But there’s one important thing Woldengen didn’t know. Alcohol vapes are illegal in Minnesota, a fact he only learned after agents with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety showed up at the bar, took the machine, and slapped him with a $1,000 fine.
Minnesota’s main hangup with vaping booze is that we have so little data on it—how much is safe to consume, or what it does to the lungs, let alone the brain. We’re not even sure how well it shows up on a breathalyzer test. We’re one of several states outlawing it rather than risking it.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Woldengen looked sober as he took the mic. He explained he’d never knowingly serve anything illegal or potentially dangerous to his customers. He’s only been the owner for about a year and a half, but Roundup has been in his family since the ’70s. He said he’s been conscientious about cutting people off or giving them rides home when they need them.
“My customers’ safety comes first,” he said.
The little white box sat on a table near the podium the whole time he was talking. It’s the first alcohol vape to be confiscated in the state—a sort of canary in the coal mine as to what might already be out there and available to the public.
The press conference was held to let other bar owners like Woldengen know they might inadvertently be breaking the law and give them a chance to turn over their devices before they get in trouble. Woldengen volunteered to share his story in an effort to educate others—even if it had no impact on his own punishment.
“I admit that I didn’t do my research,” he said. He also admitted he hadn’t tried it out himself, so he couldn’t even speak to its perceived effects on the body.
“I don’t drink,” he clarified. But, “People seemed to be having fun with it.”