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SLC bars carrying new single-use breathalyzers in response to changing liquor laws

Posted at 6:34 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 19:59:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Just in time for the holidays, bars in Salt Lake City are increasing efforts to stop drunk driving with new single-use breathalyzers.

They say big things come in small packages. Well, when it comes to new breathalyzers popping up in downtown establishments, that is the case.

For a few dollars, patrons can purchase a packet – inside, a small tube with a color-coded indicator printed along the side and a tiny viewing window full of what looks like white rocks.

“Firmly press both white caps,” Kirk Bengtzen said as he placed a hand on each side of the tube. “Boom!” he said as he pushed it together.

Bengtzen is the owner of Twist Bar Bistro Social, one of the first establishments to start carrying the single-use BAC test.

“Blow for ten seconds, two times,” he said as he read the directions on the packet.

At Twist, they sell as many as forty breathalyzers a weekend, but with advertisements posted on the walls and in their menus,  they hope people will start to take advantage of them even more.

“There are a lot of people that want to be responsible and they wonder, ‘Gosh am I there? Am I not?’” Bengtzen said.

Kirk said the benefits are two-fold -- for the guests, they enjoy having the option (some enjoy the novelty of checking their Blood Alcohol Content), but for Twist it gives an added layer of protection.

“We log this, so it protects us from any liability,” Bengtzen said.

It also allows the establishment to avoid confrontation with anyone who believes they have not been over-served.

“Go ahead and blow, if you’re under, fine we’ll serve you another drink, but if you blow over then we both agree you’re done,” said Bengtzen.

No matter the reason for purchase, the goal is to do as the breathalyzer’s name suggests, ‘Think Twice,’ before drinking and driving.

Bengtzen said when the DUI limit went down and the strength of beer went up, it became a necessity for them to offer something to help their customers.

“When [the state] changed the liquor laws, nobody really understands how big of an impact that has on them,” Bengtzen said. “[Then] people could have a couple of beers and be fine but now, depending on their weight, it could only be one beer.”

The BAC tests are FDA approved and simple to use.

You break the seal by pushing the caps at each end of the tube towards each other and blow into it twice for ten seconds, after two minutes the white rocks in the viewing window will change color – you can then compare that color to the color scale which places you in one of four categories, 0.00%, 0.02%, 0.05% or 0.08%.

Fox 13 asked Kirk to show us the process, so he got a beer. But, considering he is a big guy, he followed the beer with a shot to ensure there would be a reading.

“Boom! Here’s to Twist and Fox 13!” he said as he lifted the shot glass in the air.

Following directions, he waited twenty minutes and then opened one of the breathalyzer packets.

“Alright here we go,” he said. “Blow this way?”

Just seconds after he started to blow you could see the viewing window start to change color.

“It is starting to change!” he exclaimed.

Even though Kirk said he ‘felt fine,’ the color he blew was right in between the 0.02% and 0.05% indicators – meaning, he shouldn’t be driving.

The breathalyzers are only two dollars with a portion of the proceeds going to the Think Twice Foundation. The Think Twice Foundation provides programs that offer support and resources to victims that have been affected or impacted by impaired drivers and DUI Prevention programs at college universities.

While the cost is relatively low, if you ask Kirk, the sense of security they provide is priceless.

“We have a moral obligation to protect our guests,” Bengtzen said. “I think it’s a great idea or I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Right now, the breathalyzers are only offered at Twist and the Green Pig, but Bengtzen said he wouldn’t be surprised if even more bars started to carry them in the coming months.