Tom Jake knew he’d take some heat over the promotion he was planning at Shooterz, the West Allis bar he’s managed since 2009. But he also knew in his heart that it would be a huge success.
He was right on both accounts.
"I figured, here in ‘Stallis, our customers are pretty much always trying to get as wasted as possible anyway, so let’s turn it into a contest," said Jake, 32. "You know, something classy, where the winners get a Packer (sic) jersey and tickets to Brewer (sic) games."
Jake hatched the idea while on vacation in Tempe, Ariz., last St. Patrick’s Day, when he witnessed a mobile DUI checkpoint police had set up on Mill Ave. He saw revelers blowing a .12 percent, .18 percent and even a barely conscience man who hit .27 percent.
"I knew we could do better than that back in Wisconsin," he said. "Those numbers for us are like a light Sunday brunch when the Pack are playing an AFC team in the preseason."
Jake spent an entire year brainstorming "Blow a .30" (pronounced point-three-oh) before pitching the idea to his boss, Shooterz owner Nick Stanko. According to Jake, Stanko looked at his elaborate flowcharts and diagrams for a minute and gave the event the green light, before returning to drink his "morning whiskey" and finish his menthol cigarette.
All was going according to plan for the event, which is slated for April 8 at the bar at 8672 W. Maple St., Jake said.
However, when Jake placed his quarter-page print ad in "Wassup!" Magazine, things took a turn for the worse, if only temporarily.
"People criticized our bar for promoting binge drinking, which is totally unfair. Just because we said we’d offer $1 shots of Rumchata – a total panty-dropper – doesn’t mean we were suggesting people get drunk. Only those who are responsible adults should attempt to ‘Blow a .30’ and they should also use a designated driver. Or something," Jake said, trailing off.
The West Allis Chamber of Commerce did more research on the event details and came to a different conclusion.
"First off, a .30 percent BAC (blood alcohol content) is dangerously high," said Mary Gurken, spokesperson for the Chamber. "Not only is that more than three times the legal limit, it’s also approaching stupor or death levels of intoxication. This is an entirely reckless promotion.
"Secondly, this is not the upscale, family-friendly image of West Allis we’re hoping to portray."
But Jake said that market forces speak for themselves. Tickets for the $3 event – with proceeds going toward buying bar owner Stanko a new liver – sold out in a day. More than 25 men and two women have signed on as competitors, including 53-year-old Jimmy "Sharknado" Oakland.
"Dude, I’ve never been breathalyzed. And that's odd enough given how often I drive drunk around ‘Stallis, but I think I can win this thing," Oakland said. "I weigh about 240, and according to the Google, that’s only like 20 drinks in two hours. I can do that on an empty stomach after getting home from the smelting factory at 7 a.m."
Jake contends he’s taken all the necessary precautions for the upcoming contest. He said he will have plenty of coffee and Red Bull on hand, as well as four or five Quesalupas, "ya know, to soak up the booze." He will also have two taxis available for the estimated 150 patrons expected to attend the event, but doesn’t plan on including any medical professionals, because "it should pretty much be like any other Friday here, really."
"What could possibly go wrong?" asked Jake, no hint of irony in his bleary red eyes. "This will be great for the bar and for the City of West Allis and especially for Sharknado."
The Wisconsin Tavern League was unavailable for comment.