Safe Living enters bars around the Ames community


Ethan Crane/Iowa State Daily

Ben Wichtendahl, a patron at Charlie Yoke’s, demonstrates how the newly installed wall-mounted breathalyzer is used.

Zoë Woods

Safe Living is installing their product, Alco-Buddy, in bars around Ames thanks to the idea of an ISU student.

T.J. Elbert, junior in marketing, thought that having breathalyzers in bars would be a smart as well as a monumental idea.

He came up with the idea his freshman year after witnessing his friend, who had a personal breathalyzer, allow other friends “to see what their blood alcohol level was before they drove home.”

Elbert became motivated to create a product that would be useful to the public, and he decided to put it in places where it would be the most profitable.

Elbert then obtained six patents for his product, but because he had no funds to support his device, he sold four of his patents to an investor from New York.

This partnership started the company Safe Living LLC, under which the product Alco-Buddy is manufactured and sold.

The partnership is split into two areas. Safe Living LLC, the company name, is owned by T.J. Elbert. The product name Alco-Buddy is owned by the investor from New York.

The product itself “is fun and easy to use,” Elbert said.

The machine takes a dollar and then dispenses a straw. The straw then connects to a part on the machine, and the customer blows into the straw for a BAC reading.

With the advice of people here in Ames, T.J. Elbert has decided to try to buy back the other four patents and go into business on his own.

Elbert talked with Dan Culhane, president and chief executive officer of the Ames Chamber of Commerce.

“T.J. called me and shared with me a little bit about his product, and from where I sit, it looks like a great idea,” Culhane said.

“We talked about the mere fact this may be a great deterrent to people choosing to leave an establishment in an automobile. Anything you can do to stop people who have had too much to drink from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is great.”

Within the last three months, six machines have gone into six bars. Five of the machines are located in Ames, and the other machine is located in a bar in the Des Moines area.

“People use it more for fun to see if they’re drunk,” says Taryn Naill of Charlie Yoke’s bar.

This reason is what police commander Geoff Huff of the Ames Police Department fears. “I would be concerned, though, that it may encourage people to make a game out of it,” he said.

“If people are using the machine responsibly to help them make a good decision, then I’m not opposed to it.”

Elbert hopes to reach bars in the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa City areas. He wants to eventually get his product into all bars around Iowa and the Midwest.