Cool new invention keeps Duluth bar patrons happy

Your beer will remain cold until the last sip at Aces on First in Duluth because of a unique innovation added to the bar last month.

By: Andy Greder, Duluth News Tribune

Johnny Deeb, bartender at Aces on First in Duluth, stands next to a drink resting on one of the new drink coolers recessed into the top of the bar. Each cooler chills down to 26 degrees. Bob King /

Your beer will remain cold until the last sip at Aces on First in Duluth because of a unique innovation added to the bar last month.

Aces on First became the first bar in Minnesota to install stainless steel coasters known as Chilldiscs that keep a 4-inch surface in front of every barstool at a frosty 26 degrees.

Aces on First owner Nick Patronas said patrons on Thursday night were enjoying nearly each and every Chilldisc.

“It really keeps the drinks cold. It’s new, innovative and it’s fun,” Patronas said. “It was scary at first to have someone drill into your bar, but Aces wants to be cutting edge.”

Chilldisc, which was invented by Fred Kent of Westminster, Md., has reached bars in 13 states, mainly on the East Coast, since it was introduced to market last year. Kent’s invention pumps a corn-oil substance from insulated tubes underneath the bar to each coaster.

“It’s like a food-grade antifreeze, but there are no coils like a standard refrigerator,” said Kent, who has worked on the invention since 2004 after a 30-year career in the commercial refrigerator and metal fabrication businesses. “It’s a proprietary method of cooling to get the same results.”

Aces on First at 113 W. First St., was approached by Pat Bradley of Dwellfire, a Duluth-based distributor of the Chilldisc. Bradley and Patronas agreed that a more than $10,000 Chilldisc system would be installed with little cost in the bar July 29 if Bradley kept the rights to sell the advertising space on top of the coasters.

Bradley said the deal with Aces gets exposure for his product; Patronas called it a win-win.

“My beer stays cold, while they can sell the advertising,” Patronas said. Bradley said he sold the advertising to Summit, Coors Light and Blue Moon.

A Chilldisc system can range from eight to 25 coasters and from $6,500 to $14,000, Bradley said.

But with nearly every business looking to cut costs during the recession, why should a bar purchase a luxury item like the Chilldisc?

“It’s a great product because it gives a competitive advantage,” Bradley said. “In the recession and this economy, it helps to get that happy-hour crowd.” He also said bars can offset their cost by selling the advertising space on top of the coasters.

Bradley, an employee at Floor to Ceiling, started Dwellfire with his brother, Sean, in January to distribute unique products such as Loll recycled furniture made in Duluth, and Ecosmart Fire, a no-flue fireplace that burns ethanol.

Dwellfire, one of seven nationwide Chilldisc distributors, is negotiating deals with bars and restaurants in Minneapolis and Florida, Pat Bradley said.

He said he’s also been snooping around Aces to see how people like the Childiscs.

“I’ve been ‘secret shopping,’ if you will, to see how it goes over, and it’s been overwhelming,” he said. “They say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ”

Tags: business, downtown, alcohol, bar