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Oxygen Bar in Atlantic City, N.J., Feeds Fresh Air to Tourists
Hotel Online ^ | Dec. 31 2003 | Jean Rimbach

Posted on 02/17/2003 11:19:42 PM PST by yonif

By Jean Rimbach, The Record, Hackensack, N.J. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News Dec. 31--Patrons belly up, and plunk down $9 a shot.

But Atlantic City bartender George Kuhna isn't serving up the latest party drink. He's bubbling up scented oxygen and feeding gamblers, tourists, and conventioneers via a hose and a timer. Each hooks up to Lucite cylinders containing water in a choice of red, yellow, blue, or green and an array of fragrances to match.

"It's pretty cool. I feel a lot better than I did when I started. I feel so fresh," says Maren Ferro, 23, of Franklin Lakes as she sits at the slick silver bar late one Saturday, drinking in 10 minutes of O2 through a tube in her nose.

"Two thumbs up," says an exuberant Kelli Keenan, 22.

The new oxygen bar within Caesars is one of a small but growing number of businesses in the Garden State capitalizing on what has been an Asian, European, and -- no surprise here -- West Coast trend. Oxygen bars were popularized in the United States in the late 1990s, and their allure has grown beyond the rich and famous in Los Angeles and metropolitan hot spots, creeping into suburban enclaves such as Montclair and Westfield.

Some proponents say oxygen can help energize and relieve stress, improve skin tone, quell headaches, and clear the mind or sinuses. Others look at it as simply an entertaining diversion. Cynics -- and there are plenty of them -- see it as a con or a gimmick.

"Only in America is air no longer free," quips Bernie Wojtas as his friend inhales 10 minutes' worth at the Las Vegas Pure Oxygen Bar in Atlantic City.

Of course, the air we breathe doesn't come in scents with such exotic names as "Sex on the Beach," "Revitalize," or "Serenity," three of 16 aromas offered at the bar.

Air is 21 percent oxygen, 78 percent nitrogen, and 1 percent argon and other gases. Oxygen bar owners interviewed say they use generators that suck in air, filter out other gases, and release oxygen that is -- depending on whom you talk to -- 90 percent to 95 percent pure. The oxygen is then pumped through scented and distilled water.

It comes out a sterile nose tube -- much like one you would see in a hospital -- which is hooked to a delivery unit. The cost is usually $1 or less a minute, with frequent-buyer discounts.

In Westfield, between the Gap and Victoria's Secret, JetLife opened about two months ago and has been offering oxygen solo, while tanning, or during a computerized massage in an electronic shiatsu chair.

"We get people on a break from work rejuvenating, we have people who do it before or after the gym, and people who live locally who do it right before they go to bed to help them sleep at night," says Peter Matushin, one of the owners. "It's been very well-received. We expected people to think it's more odd."

In Ocean Township in Monmouth County, Natural Pharmacy opened its O2 bar in August, intriguing customers with a Clintonesque banner that proclaims "It's OK to inhale" and three colorful oxygen delivery stations set on a small table toward the back of the store.

Pharmacist Eric Sauer, also an enzyme therapist and nutritionist, says he does it himself three times a week and finds it keeps him more alert while compounding medications.

Sauer was sold on O2 bars after reading up on their use overseas, particularly in Japan. He says about 60 people have pre-bought 100 to 300 minutes of oxygen they then use in smaller bites. One of them is musician Larry Maccia, who first tried O2 before a performance in California.

"Before I go practice or rehearse or whatever, I'll go to the store and take 20 minutes or so of oxygen. It's not an immediate impact, but it feels sort of like it clears my head a little bit and I feel somewhat revitalized when I do it," says Maccia, a guitarist with Gary U.S. Bonds. "I'm actually trying to see if he can get it to some of our gigs."

Trade shows, nightclubs, and health spas are all part of the O2 trend. There's the mall kiosk in Massachusetts, the hypnotherapist in New Mexico, and the Sun Spa Tanning Salon & O2 Bar in always-cosmopolitan Montclair.

The Lorraine Avenue business has been offering oxygen and aromatherapy for three years. Owner Steven Cremonni says he provides as many as 1,000 oxygen services a month in eucalyptus for congestion, lavender for stress, and citrus as something that's "uplifting and refreshing."

"I try to go at least twice a week," says Alex Schiavone, a hair salon owner who regularly treats employees to O2 in Montclair. "With the colors and the perms and relaxers and all the pollutants in the air here, I just go for some pure oxygen to relax and unwind."

Cremonni's customers kick off their shoes and lounge in comfortable leather chairs and sofas, or escape to a tiny private room with a rocking chair and CD player.

"For oxygen, my busiest time really is Sunday afternoon when people are coming in hung over," he says. "I get busier in transitional seasons, spring and fall when there's more spores in the air and more congestion. People come in and use it to get rid of the congestion. But it's more often I have people who come in who are stressed out and use it.

"I don't make any medical claims on it or anything like that," he says. "It doesn't hurt that you're sitting, you're relaxing, you're keeping your mouth shut, you're not talking, and [you're] breathing deeply for 20 minutes. I think there is a lot of placebo effect in this, also. Not that I have any doubts oxygen is really good for you."

Entrepreneur Anthony Capetola opened the eight-seat Las Vegas Pure Oxygen Bar the first week in October outside the Temple Bar and Grill, which he also owns. He expects to operate three O2 bars in Atlantic City before long.

Meanwhile, the oxygen bar at Olio!, his restaurant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, is doing a booming business -- he figures 200 to 400 customers a day depending on what's happening in the hotel and its arena. He's signed deals to open two others in the Western gambling mecca.

At the Atlantic City venue, passers-by stop to gawk, ask questions, or sound off in disbelief about the sale of O2.

But people are intrigued. A man from Chicago says it looked "sort of Star Wars," explaining why he plunked down his $9 for 10 minutes and persuaded his wary friend to do the same. Another prods his buddies to try it because he saw an oxygen bar on television recently, and says this one looks "futuristic."

Each of the bar's eight delivery stations has four canisters holding scented, colored water. The aromatherapy fragrances have evocative names. "The Grove," for example, offers mandarin orange and "Allure" delivers jasmine. Customers control which scents they get and how strong they are delivered.

"It got rid of my headache," says Colleen Mastorelli of Lake Hopatcong, who tried eucalyptus.

Dr. Steven Stoller and his 16-year-old son Brandon, Saddle River residents, were among a crowd at the O2 bar one night after a boxing match. As Dad sipped a martini, his son sampled the scents. He says a friend tried oxygen during a trip to Colorado and he had been intrigued.

"I'm definitely feeling more awake," the teen says.

"It's a fad," says his father.

They said the same thing years ago, about designer coffee and bottled water, says Daniel Chung, president of O2 Technologies in Ridgefield. But customers were willing to pay a premium for those status symbols.

"The trend may take five years, it may take 10 years, but I do know our sales are going up," he says.

Chung's four-year-old company specializes in generators used in oxygen bars, oxygen saunas, and oxygenating water coolers. He thinks oxygen bars are merely a precursor of what's to come, that people aren't going to want to drive somewhere to get a 20-minute blast, and that oxygen products will end up in the home. In Europe -- where he does 80 percent of his business -- you can already buy oxygen air conditioning systems, Chung says.

And people who try oxygen bars in Las Vegas or Tokyo have come to him looking for their own.

Oxygen is technically considered a drug, and the Food and Drug Administration says it is against its regulations to dispense it without a prescription, says spokeswoman Laura Bradbard. But she says the FDA leaves it to states to determine how such businesses are handled.

Doctors, meanwhile, say inhaling oxygen for short periods should be harmless. But they caution that although it can be helpful to some people with lung and other diseases, studies have shown long-term exposure to O2 -- hours of it -- can damage airways. Many chalk customers' reactions up to the placebo effect.

"I wouldn't think it would be really helpful unless there's an underlying problem," says Dr. Aman Vazir, a pulmonologist and medical director of the sleep lab at St. Joseph's Wayne hospital.

Though he said it's possible the oxygen may make someone with a hangover feel a bit better or provide a boost to a person who was fatigued, the benefit wouldn't be long-lasting.

Some won't even go that far.

"As far as I can tell, scientifically, there's no benefit to that," says Dr. Hormoz Ashtyani, director of the Breath and Lung Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center.

"They may feel a boost, but it's not because of the oxygen, it's because they're doing something they believe is going to work," he says.

"We are a stressed society, and we want to get things done on the cheap rather than modifying our lifestyle to make sure we get enough sleep so we are not tired, or reducing our level of stress," Ashtyani says. "[Oxygen] gives an easy way out. The problem, you know, is an 'out' is usually not the right way."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: New Jersey
KEYWORDS: atlanticcity; freshair; newjersey; oxygenbar

1 posted on 02/17/2003 11:19:42 PM PST by yonif
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To: yonif
I think their customers are called oxy-morons. Jack Kevorkian, if he were out of jail, would open a rival bar down the street serving carbon monoxide. :)
2 posted on 02/17/2003 11:54:15 PM PST by graycamel (Howabout Disneyland serving Helium so you can talk like Donald Duck?)
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To: graycamel
oxygen really is quite refrshing...unfortunately I was in a car wreck and had to go to the hospital...when they took my oxygen away, I realized how much harder it is to breath regular air...If there were some way to have a little portable oxygen supply, I bet it would more than triple the stamina of athletes...or maybe cops chasing down bad guys. Every advantage counts...It may look corny, but definately makes a difference.
3 posted on 02/17/2003 11:58:50 PM PST by Capitalism2003
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To: graycamel
Some say use of the oxygen sedates them--they call it "oxidation". BTW, liked your tag line about the helium bar at Disneyland so you could talk like Donald Duck--it really quacked me up.
4 posted on 02/18/2003 12:06:52 AM PST by exit82 (You knew that was coming!)
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To: yonif
A good old pot soup beans comes to mind
5 posted on 02/18/2003 12:10:32 AM PST by ATOMIC_PUNK (An American Fellowship of Freedom loving Conservatives..... <*[[[[[><)
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To: Capitalism2003
Sorry to hear you were in an accident. My old landlord, may he rest in peace, always walked around with an oxygen canister connected to his nose. He said he would die without it. I have heard of one very bad side effect of oxygen. Premature babies, when given it, would sometimes go blind. I doubt it adversely affects those whose bodies are fully developed.
6 posted on 02/18/2003 12:15:59 AM PST by graycamel
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To: exit82
I had to think about the oxidation comment before I realized it was a joke. (ox-sedation) I guess it would work on oxen. Just like drinking so-da makes people so-dumb.
7 posted on 02/18/2003 12:19:39 AM PST by graycamel (Do they serve nitrogen at night, or radon so they will glow?)
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To: graycamel
LOL! You have a bright future with your sense of humor.
8 posted on 02/18/2003 12:34:35 AM PST by exit82 (Chirac needs a Sacre-Blu-115!)
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To: yonif
I have done some research medically on this as my son is on o2 12hrs. a day and it is only helpful for those who cannot keep o2 rates at a healthy levels due to health reason like lung or brain disorders.

Too keep o2 levels health one must be on o2 for a min. of 12 hrs. a day to compensate for low levels during active/awake hrs.

The temporary o2 levels rising due to therapy from these bars have no health effects what so ever due to the short time they are being used.

Great scam though.
9 posted on 02/18/2003 12:48:16 AM PST by oceanperch (Support Our Troops)
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To: sweetliberty

Too strange for words.

10 posted on 02/18/2003 1:16:20 AM PST by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber!)
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To: Capitalism2003
O2 is great, but if you have a bunch of O2 breathing bacteria in your body all you really do is feed them and make them stronger.

If you kill them off(colloidal silver at 10PPM/day for 10 days will do it), you'll feel lots better and won't need the concentrated stuff unless you live in a smoggy city where the O2 content is below 20%.

Don't see too many O2 bars out in the countryside, but they have been springing up at ski resorts of late, which is a good place for them too.

11 posted on 02/18/2003 1:28:43 AM PST by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber!)
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Mexican diner/methane bar! Nothing brings a room to life like a thunderous burst of methane. I've seen its miraculous effects in person. A somnolent classroom full of students one minute; a jolt of methane and they are all wide awake the next!
12 posted on 02/18/2003 1:42:12 AM PST by flying Elvis
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To: flying Elvis
Chiraq agrees with you.

13 posted on 02/18/2003 1:49:04 AM PST by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber!)
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To: PeaceBeWithYou
Nah, that's his natural reaction when exposed to integrity and character.
14 posted on 02/18/2003 3:04:01 AM PST by flying Elvis
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To: yonif
In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe tells stories of drunken fighter pilots breathing pure oxygen for thirty minutes to sober themselves up before a flight. Does anyone know if there's any truth to these stories, or to the implied sobering powers of O2?

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason:

15 posted on 02/18/2003 6:27:51 AM PST by fporretto (Curmudgeon Emeritus, Palace of Reason)
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To: yonif
Oxygen is technically considered a drug, and the Food and Drug Administration says it is against its regulations to dispense it without a prescription, says spokeswoman Laura Bradbard.

The dumbest part of the whole article. More Big Stupid Government meddling in every conceivable aspect of our lives.

Let's deprive the FDA of oxygen for a few years and watch the country benefit.

16 posted on 02/18/2003 7:31:13 AM PST by Hank Rearden (Bringing you grumpy bon mots since early '99. You're welcome.)
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To: Hank Rearden
More Big Stupid Government meddling in every conceivable aspect of our lives.

Buy your Snake Oil right here! It'll cure everything possibly wrong! You'll be rejuvenated, younger, healthier, more regular, and attract the ladies!

17 posted on 02/18/2003 7:57:41 AM PST by Chemist_Geek ("Drill, R&D, and conserve" should be our watchwords! Energy independence for America!)
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To: exit82
I used to want to be a comedian. I almost auditioned for stand-up, but I realized that everyone would assume that I'm a happy-go-lucky fellow that doesn't care about anything but jokes. :) So, I'm back in college getting a biology.
18 posted on 02/19/2003 1:00:16 AM PST by graycamel
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