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Bars with breathalyzer machines raise questions in NM

CNN/KRQE
Sunday, May 25, 2014 - 8:00pm

 Breathalyzer machines are popping up in Albuquerque bars, so drinkers can see how much they've had.

Bar owners say they agreed to have them installed after a firefighter brought them in and said the money they raised would go to a good cause.

But are they a good idea? And is it actually charity or a business?

Bars in Albuquerque, including a couple in Nob Hill, NM let a local firefighter install breathalyzer vending machines, assuming that all proceeds go toward the fire department or the New Mexico Burn Center at UNMH.

"I have people use it all the time. I mean on Friday nights especially when I bartend," said Ashley Stavig, the manager of Kelly’s Brew Pub.

It's new. I had never seen it before so I thought it'd be a great idea," Daniel Barfield, owner of High Point Vending, told CNN affiliate KRQE.

Barfield has installed 8 of these breathalyzer vending machines in bars in the Albuquerque area including Kelly’s Brew Pub in Nob Hill.

"It doesn't cost us anything. Just people coming to exchange their dollar bills for quarters," Stavig explained.

Four quarters and customers can test how much alcohol they have in their system.

Barfield says people have used the machines a total of about 700 times over the past two months.

That’s 700-dollars 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 says 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 explained.

The flyer says "Play it safe. do some good," but doesn't specify how much money will go to "do some good."

Barfield says he plans to donate ten percent at the end of the year to the "Firefighters Burn Treatment Fund" -- a nonprofit, he says, will give to the New Mexico Burn Center At UNMH.

Barfield also said 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 told us 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 told us a lot of people are just using the machines for contests to see who's the drunkest.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is deadest against the machines, saying they make people think they can stop drinking just below a point-oh-eight and still drive, which can still be dangerous and can still lead to a DWI.

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