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Woman plans chain of oxygen bars

Auburn barkeep hopes idea will catch on in the U.S.

AUBURN, Wash. — An Auburn entrepreneur plans to open a pair of oxygen bars here — the first-ever in the Pacific Northwest — with ambitions to open more eventually in Seattle.

Oxygen bars have been around for years in Asia. Donel Brinkman, owner of a restaurant/pub in Auburn called the Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill, hopes the concept can catch on here in the United States. There are oxygen bars currently in operation in California, Nevada, Florida and Colorado.

Brinkman has wanted to open an oxygen bar here in the Pacific Northwest ever since learning of the concept four years ago.

— — — Here's how they work

AUBURN, Wash. — — Oxygen bars do not look or feel remotely like a hospital, although — some claim they have therapeutic value. An oxygen generator used in — the process is hidden so it is not possible to hear the sound of the — compressor, and clear plastic tubes connect it to one or more infuser — units.

— The infuser units that — Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill owner Donel Brinkman plans to use at her — oxygen bars have an art deco look to them. Tubes routing the oxygen — flow through the device are submerged in four transparent and lighted — containers that hold differently colored and scented liquids.

— The oxygen bubbles through — the liquids — picking up the different scents along the way — — before entering a clear plastic tube that connects to a nose clip the — customer uses to inhale the gas.

— The infusers have switches — in front of each container so that it is possible to change or mix the — different scents, notes Brinkman.

— The containers holding the — scented liquids are labeled so the customer knows what to expect. — There are eight of them altogether.

— They include Synergy (a — combination of peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen); Tangerine Dream — (citrus); Sublime (lime); Clarity (a combination of eucalyptus and — gingko); Revitalize (a combination of lemon, peppermint, rosemary and — sweet basil); Lemon Grass (lemon grass); Nirvana (a combination of — lavender and Roman chamomile); and Dream (a combination of tangerine — and jasmine). — — Back then, she was running a restaurant in Auburn known as the Spunky Monkey Cafe, located in a small shop space next to the Mazatlan Restaurant. She moved her business to a larger space in a new building a block away, near the neighborhood Safeway grocery store about a year ago.

The extra space of her new site — — at 124 Second Ave. S.E. — allowed her to expand her cafe into a bar and grill, as well as finally add an oxygen bar, which she hopes to open within about two weeks.

She also will open a second oxygen bar, which will be combined with a juice bar that will be located on the original site of the Spunky Monkey Cafe, at 118 Cross St. The new oxygen/juice bar will be called Juice Jive and Breathe, an oxygen bar.

Brinkman said she came across a manufacturer of oxygen-bar equipment when she conducted a search on the Internet using the keyword O2.

That led her to Las Vegas, Nev.-based company called Breathe Ink. She immediately booked a flight to visit the company and try out an oxygen bar for herself.

Brinkman said she didn't notice any effect at first, but she did after about 15 minutes. I was just totally relaxed, she said. I mean, I was thinking, ?I feel smooth, I feel clear.?

Sold on the concept, Brinkman bought two oxygen generators and five infusers from Breathe Ink.

The oxygen generators — which look like small air compressors connected to a tower of tubes — take in regular air and purify it by removing nitrogen and other trace gases, she said.

The result is concentrated oxygen, which is fed into infusers, where the oxygen is filtered through containers of scented liquids.

The equipment isn't cheap. Brinkman wouldn't reveal what her total tab was, but said a single setup costs around $8,000.

Brinkman said the oxygen bar at the Spunky Monkey will have one oxygen generator and two infusers, while the Juice Jive and Breathe location will have one generator and three infusers. Juice Jive and Breathe will also sell smoothies and different kinds of nonalcoholic herbal martinis that she says can provide extra energy or even jump-start your love life.

Brinkman said she knows of people who have used oxygen bars who say it makes them feel better. She added that some say it can even clear up a hangover. It's brain food, she said, adding that the motto for her new oxygen bar business is: It's OK to inhale.

She said, however, that she is steering clear of claiming there are therapeutic benefits to using an oxygen bar. We can't make any medical claims, she said.

Dr. David J. Pierson, director of respiratory care and medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, remains doubtful that oxygen bars have anything to offer healthwise. I know of no possible benefit, other than a placebo affect, he said.

He added that oxygen bars definitely don't offer long-term benefits because such a thing just isn't possible. The big thing, from a scientific point of view, is that the body is incapable of storing oxygen for very long, he said.

Moreover, Pierson cautioned, there could be harmful effects from breathing pure oxygen for longer than 20 minutes or so. Brinkman said she's been told that 30 minutes is the maximum time anyone should use an oxygen bar. She plans to sell 20-minute oxygen bar sessions for $15.95, which will include an herbal martini.

What's more, her oxygen bars will be serving nearly pure oxygen, but not 100 percent doses.

Cullen Cameron of Oasis Oxygen Bars in Winter Park, Fla., whose business uses Breathe Ink's equipment, called the company a pioneer in a field that is gradually gaining acceptance.

Cameron said, like most, he was initially skeptical regarding oxygen bars, thinking it was merely a passing fad. He has since changed his mind. I think it's here to stay for awhile, he said, noting that people used to laugh at the idea of selling bottled water, too.

Brinkman hopes that oxygen bars will catch on here in the Pacific Northwest. She said a number of people have already stopped by her restaurant to express their interest in trying the oxygen bar when it opens.

Brinkman declined to speculate about how well her oxygen bar operation will do in Auburn, but said she's already making plans to open three more oxygen bars in Seattle.