Oxygen Bar Operator The Buzz


Looking for a business opportunity that offers a healthy alternative to the bar scene? Follow your nose to the nearest oxygen bar and breathe in the scene.

"We are kind of an alternative to alcohol," says Kim Passeneau, the co-owner of an oxygen bar in San Francisco that also sells hot and cold herbal drinks.

"We say this place is for balance. We have disc jockeys here just like a regular bar. We have massage people that come in every night, and we have caterers that come in twice a week with vegetarian dishes and raw food."

Passeneau says the response to the bar has been very good. "People are looking for something else to do, something interesting other than going out and drinking every night," she says.

Oxygen bars generally mix oxygen with an aromatherapy blend. The oxygen, which is usually sold by the minute, is inhaled with an oxygen tube or with a mask.

"I am not making any medical claims, but sometimes it helps with fatigue, headaches and hangovers," Passeneau says, adding that her bar does not have a target audience. "We have anywhere from newborns to 90-year-olds in here. We have a wide market."

Some bars offer other oxygen products, like an oxygen steam bath. "This is a unit that someone would go in and they would steam in this unit and it would draw all their toxins out," says Shamila Hunter. Hunter is the co-founder and co-owner of an oxygen bar.

"People do that for 20 minutes and do their oxygen right after, either 20 or 40 minutes of oxygen, and they feel amazing."

Hunter says her oxygen bar is most popular with people in the 28- to 38-year-old range. "We also offer energy drinks and herbal drinks as well," Hunter says. "Everything here is pretty much good for you."

Like opening any other business, there are certain steps you need to follow to open an oxygen bar.

First, do research and pick an area to locate your business. You also need to decide if you are going to have a stand-alone business or set up shop as an additional revenue source for an already existing business, like a restaurant.

Either way, have a business plan that outlines how you intend to operate your business. This document shows a lender, potential partner or investor what type of business you will operate, how you intend to run it and your qualifications.

There are also several permits and contracts you need to secure. These include:

  • Your lease -- You need to find a location for your business and sign a lease, which will outline the monthly rate you will pay for rent.
  • Your location -- If you plan to remodel the location or add air conditioning, water and sewer, you will need a building permit.
  • Your business license -- You will need to secure a business permit.
  • Your occupancy permit -- To set up shop, you will need this permit. An occupancy permit is generally connected with fire and safety departments. It will outline the number of patrons you can have in your business at any given time. You only need to get this permit if you plan to run your business as a stand-alone business. If you share your space with another existing business, you generally are covered under that business's occupancy permit.

The initial investment you make in your oxygen bar can vary greatly. To buy the equipment, expect to spend in the $3,000 to $10,000 range, says Pat Williams. Williams is the vice-president of sales and marketing for a company that operates nine oxygen bars in Las Vegas hotels. The company also supplies, consults and manages 200 bars on four continents in 11 countries.

You can also go a different route, to limit your initial costs while getting your feet wet in this type of business. Hunter notes that leasing is a good option. Hunter's company leases and sells oxygen bar equipment. This arrangement can cost you as little as $13 to $30 a day.

Overall start-up costs, including rent, remodeling and equipment, can range from $80,000 to $2 million, Passeneau says. "This can vary depending on how many machines you offer, what else you offer -- in the way of entertainment, food and drinks -- and what your decor is like.

"You could incorporate it as a day spa or operate it as a nighttime place as we have done."

Hunter says you can cut costs by leasing the equipment.

"That would mean they would have a steam bath and an oxygen unit, so it can be very inexpensive," Hunter says. "We have created these systems, being business owners ourselves. We understand it is very difficult to put all of your money out at once.

"It can be hard to stay ahead when everything -- or all your money -- is out and you have nothing to fall back on. If you can have these units in your business [on lease] generating income on them while you are paying to own them, it makes a lot more sense."

Williams notes that these bars also do well as additional revenue sources, like her company's hotel oxygen bars. "These businesses can stand alone. But they probably do best as an additional revenue source for an already-standing location, be it a nightclub, restaurant or shopping mall," he says.

Williams says oxygen bars are most popular in Las Vegas. "I think you can attribute that to the steady flow of tourists we have. We had 33 million people visit our city last year," he adds.

A marketing background is helpful in running any business, the experts note. "A medical background can help [in running an oxygen bar]. And you need to like educating people, because most people don't know anything about this," says Passeneau, a former nurse.

Some training is necessary to use the equipment, she says. "Anyone can basically be trained," she says. "There are just some little nuances."

Hunter notes that most of the systems have fail-safes, so they are easy to run. Her company offers training to people who lease or buy equipment. "They would either come to us and get quite a few days [of] training here, or if that wasn't possible, we would talk to them and send them out a video. But it is preferable that they come to our location," she says.

Hunter says anyone thinking about entering this type of business needs stamina. "They have to understand that when they start their business, it takes time to develop a clientele," she says.

"They need patience. They need to be smart with their money. That means if you have a good day, you can't go out and spend it. You need to plan for a rainy day."

One of the benefits of this type of self-employment opportunity is controlling your own fate. "I am 35 years old and I have never worked a job where I had a salary," Williams says. "If I do a really good job, I want to be compensated for that.

"I think this business allows you to be as creative as you want and work as hard as you want and actually get paid for what you do, versus an hourly wage or some sort of set salary," he concludes. "Where this business is going is limitless."

Links

Breathe Inc.
Learn about pricing for oxygen bar products