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HangIVer Bar sticks it to customers to cure fatigue, hangovers (w/video)

HangIVer Bar site manager and paramedic Chad Davis checks on client Laura McGowan, 55, who was getting the “Fountain of Youth” intravenous drip Thursday. Treatments last about 30 minutes and cost about $139.
Published Jul. 26, 2014

TAMPA

A new bar in South Tampa mixes cocktails called Hair of the Dog, Chicken Soup and Fountain of Youth.

It serves them in plastic bags, not cups. Needles substitute for straws.

The HangIVer Bar does hydration therapy for treating fatigue, illness and, yes, hangovers. Intravenous drips contain vitamins and medicine to help customers feel better fast.

Dr. Uhuru Smith, an anesthesiologist who works in Manatee County, opened the area's first IV spa in early July at 3415 S Manhattan Ave. It targets anyone trying to shake a cold, recover from a hard workout or survive a wicked night of partying.

"It's a rehydration hub," she said. "It's definitely spalike, but in a lot of ways it's a clinic."

The HangIVer Bar offers five kinds of IV treatments, or cocktails, which cost about $139 each. Extra doses of Vitamin C, Toradol (a pain killer) and Glutathione (an antioxidant) cost an additional $25 to $30.

Treatments last about 30 minutes and are administered by paramedics from local fire departments who work at the spa part time. The needles are slightly bigger than ones used to draw blood at doctors' offices but smaller than ones for donating blood.

Satisfied clients say the effects are immediate and more effective than fluids or pills taken orally.

"I felt really relaxed," said Eric Peer, a spin class instructor who received the Fountain of Youth treatment containing B complex, Vitamin C and restorative fluids. "I got a little euphoric and felt more energized for a few days. If I could do it every week, I would."

During her first visit last week, Heather Barnette said sitting with a needle in her arm didn't hurt at all. A sales manager for a food and beverage company, she had heard about hydration therapy and thought it would help with fatigue associated with having multiple sclerosis.

"It's not because I had too many Johnny Vegas (shots)," she joked. "My energy level is definitely going to improve."

A state-licensed anesthesiologist, Dr. Smith lives in southeastern Hillsborough County but strategically opened the HangIVer Bar in South Tampa, a hot spot for partying. She figured the spa would attract the overindulgent bar crowd but, so far, curing hangovers has accounted for less than 20 percent of business, she said. No one has scheduled an appointment in anticipation of getting drunk, but word about the clinic is still getting around. The most requested treatment has been the Chicken Soup cocktail with magnesium, B-12 and other vitamins for fighting off a cold.

"With fast-paced lifestyles, people are looking for ways to be more efficient," Smith said. "Trying to drink Emergen-C four times a day is not efficient when you could go and get an IV and immediately feel better."

While novel to the area, the concept is not new. Doctors in private practice have been doing hydration therapy for years but marketed it differently, without the Hair of the Dog references. Reviv Wellness has treatment centers in Miami Beach and Las Vegas and plans to add others in South Florida and Los Angeles. Last year, on an episode of Real Housewives of Miami, the women spent a day getting IV cocktails.

In 2012, Dr. Jason Burke gave the therapy a boost by opening Hangover Heaven, a mobile hangover treatment center that cruises the Las Vegas strip for partiers seeking to expunge the pain of last night. "Feel Like Hell?" says the side of the tricked-out bus.

Also an anesthesiologist, Burke discovered the benefits of IV hydration after suffering from a hangover himself. He knew medicated IV fluids worked for patients in the recovery room and thought a blend of electrolytes would work for treating veisalgia, the medical term for a hangover.

Snickering aside, the therapy isn't embraced by all medical professionals. Prescription IV medications could have side effects that spa employees might not be able to respond to.

Dr. David Wein, chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital, said drinking fluids could have the same effect as though maybe not as quickly. He wouldn't recommend the treatment to patients but said it could benefit athletes needing to replenish fluids during heavy exertion.

"You might get better slightly faster, but I don't think it will make any significant health differences," he said. "I think it's a comfort issue more than anything else."

He also cautioned that prescription drugs, when administered intravenously, could have stronger side effects than when taken orally. For example, Toradol, a strong form of ibuprofen, could cause stomach irritation.

At the HangIVer Bar, Smith said she hired paramedics because they would be able to recognize potential risks and respond to emergencies. They don't treat anyone who is under the influence. Needles are discarded after every use.

Based on the strong initial response, the spa plans to add a mobile unit for doing the treatments at events and people's homes, said Jennifer Tishler, the director of business development. It's also looking into creating kiosks at hotels and airports, where travelers could use a refresh. The HangIVer's grand opening event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 10 with food, music and tours of the facility, which employs about 10 people.

Tristan Lang, the director of operations, said people would be surprised by the benefits. From her first poke, she was a fan.

"I was up late, up earlier and with a spring in my step," she said. "I wasn't waxing the floors at midnight, but I had energy."

Contact Susan Thurston at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110. Follow @susan_thurston.

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