Hydrate IV Bar, on South University Boulevard in Denver’s Bonnie Brae neighborhood, is a narrow and utterly unassuming space when viewed from the street, crammed almost submissively between a real estate office and a beauty shop. But don’t let the façade fool you. What seems modest from the outside is actually quite ambitious within. That’s because Hydrate IV is one of the only places in Denver offering recreational intravenous therapy, a modish new health craze quickly gaining popularity among wellness-lovers.
I popped into Hydrate on a recent evening to see what all the hype was about. Katie Wafer, one of the owners, greeted me as I walked through the door. A former Broncos cheerleader who radiates the sort of airy vitality that, quite appropriately, makes you want to buy health products from her, Wafer runs the business with her partner, Blake Whealy, a former pro baseball player whom she met, years ago, in medical sales.
“We’re going to do the simple health and wellness drip,” Wafer told me, after walking me through a menu that included such options as “Hangover,” “Jet Lag” and “Anti-Aging.” The most basic of Hydrate’s vitamin cocktails, the Health & Wellness is designed to promote energy maintenance, immunity and hydration via a mixture of saline, vitamin C, B-complex and magnesium, all blended into a translucent yellow liquid.
“This one will make you feel good anytime, day or night,” she assured me. “You really can’t go wrong.”
Though big in other cities (notably Las Vegas, the hangover capital of the world), IV therapy has yet to make serious waves in Denver. Hydrate IV Bar is trying to change that. Prices range from $20 for an à la carte vitamin “shot” to $169 for the most expensive treatment, the “Anti-Aging” blend, a mixture of saline, B-complex, glutathione, magnesium and vitamin C. You can also sign up for a $125 monthly membership and come as often as you please. In addition to its Bonnie Brae location, Hydrate is opening a second location in the Highlands this year.
After signing a waiver and filling out a medical history questionnaire, I was ready to give the treatment a whirl. “Our goal here is to create a comfortable and relaxed environment,” Wafer said, leading me back to the treatment space. “This is more of an experience, rather than just a medical treatment.”
It was obvious, immediately, what she meant. I had expected something (as most first-timers probably do) sterile and clinical—vinyl tile and white walls, perhaps, brushed steel and fluorescent lighting. Instead, I found myself among a group of easy chairs arranged around a television, with potted ferns and oil paintings and a large area rug to complete the picture: far more living room than hospital. The sole aspect of the scene that struck me as outwardly medical was a nurse who wheeled a little metal cart over to me as I slumped into one of the chairs.
“We’re regulated the same way any medical facility would be,” Wafer explained, as the nurse swabbed the inside of my elbow and brought out a needle in a plastic sleeve. “Everyone is highly trained and knowledgeable. That goes for our staff, vendors and the pharmacies we use as well.”
From start to finish, the whole experience took about 45 minutes. After the IV was inserted, I essentially just sat and waited while gravity drew a liter of liquid down a plastic line and deposited it into my bloodstream. For the first five, 10, 15 minutes, I wondered if somehow I’d gotten a dud bag; nothing seemed to be happening. Then, right around the 20-minute mark, I started to feel it. A flush of oxygen to the lungs, a pleasant weight in the limbs and a mental jounce, like I’d just downed a cup of something caffeinated. More than anything, I felt (as Wafer had promised I would) blissfully functional. “Your body was craving water and you didn’t know even it,” she said. “Now you’re running at 100 percent.”
I left in a state of what can only be described as manageable euphoria. “You’re going to be hooked now,” Wafer said, a distinctly victorious twinkle in her eye. “Most first-timers come in skeptics and walk out converted.”
Consider this guy a believer.