ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Breathalyzer machines are popping up in Albuquerque bars so drinkers can see how much they’ve had.
Bar owners said they agreed to have them installed after a firefighter brought them in and said they were for a good cause. But are they a good idea and is it actually charity or is it a business?
Bars in Albuquerque, including a couple in Nob Hill, let a local firefighter install breathalyzer vending machines, assuming all proceeds go toward the fire department or the New Mexico Burn Center at UNMH.
“I have people use it all the time,” said Ashley Stavig, a manager at Kelly’s Brew Pub. “I mean on Friday nights, especially when I bartend.”
“It’s new. I had never seen it before, so I thought it’d be a great idea,” said Daniel Barfield.
He said he has installed eight breathalyzer vending machines in bars in the Albuquerque area.
“It doesn’t cost us anything, just people coming to exchange their dollar bills for quarters,” Stavig said.
Four quarters and customers can test how much alcohol they have in their system.
Barfield said people have used the machines a total of about 700 times over the past two months.
That is $700 that bar owners I spoke with believed was all going to charity. The machines are tagged with messages like, “blow for a cause” and “proceeds from this breathalyzer support local charity,” next to a flyer that says “proceeds from this breathalyzer go to support the Firefighters Burn Treatment Fund of New Mexico.”
“We installed it probably a couple months ago, and I know it’s a contribution to the fire department,” Stavig said.
Well, not exactly.
Barfield is a Bernalillo County firefighter, but he said he’s doing this on his own time as a side business.
“I can see how they could think, you know, that with me being a firefighter, that the fire department is involved but it’s not at all. It’s totally me,” Barfield said. “I apologize for that if that’s what they were thinking.”
The flyer doesn’t specify how much money will go to “do some good.”
Barfield said he plans to donate 10 percent at the end of the year to the Firefighters Burn Treatment Fund of New Mexico, a nonprofit he said will give to the New Mexico Burn Center at UNMH.
Barfield told News 13 he plans on donating more than 10 percent in the future once he pays off what he owes for the machines.
A Bernalillo County spokesperson said it’s okay for Barfield to tell bar owners he’s a firefighter. He just can’t act as a representative of the department.
A couple bar owners KRQE spoke to said a lot of people are just using the machines to have contests to see who’s the drunkest.
MADD, by the way, is deadset against the machines, saying they make people think they can stop drinking just below a .08 and still drive, which can still be dangerous and can still lead to a DWI.