What if, the next time you visited a bar or restaurant, you could get up and pour yourself a beer when you were ready for more? Or maybe, you could sample each beer on offer before committing to a full pour. The idea is not exactly a new one; self-service taps have been in existence for two decades. In Las Vegas, however, the technology has been in limited supply.
The Firkin Pub & Grille, which opened in 2012 on the corner of Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue, offered 42 handles but closed within a year. Since then, others have come and gone. Venues currently using the model include the Nacho Daddy location at Sahara and Ft. Apache, with eight self-serve taps, and Pub 1842 in MGM Grand, which offers a few taps at a designated table. Now it appears the mega-selection format—favored by similarly themed wine establishments as The Hostile Grape in M Resort—is making a comeback, with two newly opened spots entering the field of serve-yourself options.
PizzaRev opened its third Southern Nevada location at 2400 W. Sahara Avenue on June 29, with the required hardware to let you explore its 18 taps. Dubbed the PizzaRev Taproom, it’s only the second location in the chain to offer such an opportunity (the other is in Nashville). The concept supports several Nevada breweries, and during opening week dispensed brews from Able Baker, Bad Beat, Big Dog’s, Great Basin and Joseph James. “With our two other PizzaRev restaurants in Las Vegas enjoying tremendous success, it was an effortless decision to bring the PizzaRev Taproom experience to the market,” says Steve Keith, owner of parent company Skye Pie LLC. “Now with the self-pour draft beer wall, [customers] can become their own bartenders, exploring different draft and craft beers by the ounce, by the pint, or in any combination they prefer.”
The system works is as follows: When you tap your pre-purchased wristband to a placard above the tap handle of your choice, a green light indicates that you are free to pour. A digital display indicates how much you’ve poured, how much you have left to pour on your account and how much per ounce each beer costs (most are .34-.40 cents per ounce). To ensure no one over-serves themself, after dispensing 32 ounces, you must check in with a manager before being granted more ounces. In addition to beer, one of the 18 taps pours a cider and two pour wine.
Slated for an August opening is Hop, a stand-alone kiosk with a mere 12-foot diameter footprint at the bridge level of Harmon Corner on the Strip. Hop will not offer food, but is equipped with 26 self-serve taps, 20 of which are devoted to beer (the other six pour wine). Of the beer taps, 10 will feature the usual suspects and 10 are craft, with six in the initial lineup earmarked for local breweries Bad Beat, Big Dog’s, CraftHaus and Joseph James. Prices range from .40-.65 cents per ounce for beer and $1.10-$1.60 for wine.
Hop is the first self-serve concept in Las Vegas not aligned with a bar or restaurant and is using the latest technology—Amazon Web Services facial recognition—to identify account holders. Signing up for an account involves having several pictures taken by a 4K high definition camera, which takes about a minute, and once you are checked in, you are free to pour. The facial recognition aspect adds an extra layer of safety and security, as the system will operate only for the account holder, preventing one from sharing their pouring privileges with an underage or intoxicated person. To prevent overserving, the system will not allow a customer to pour more than 32 ounces within a 20-minute period, which goes a little further than an existing Nevada law prohibiting more than 48 ounces to be poured within a 15 minute period.
In addition, employees evaluate a customer’s level of inebriety, just as a bartender would. Unlike a bar, however, Hop will have a no-tipping policy for its staff. “Let’s be honest,” founder and partner Anthony Connelly opines, “the U.S. is going away from the tipping model, and nobody in the world tips as much as we do. At Hop we have a no tipping policy. We plan to expand and have some other leases for more locations in Las Vegas and have interest from some local casinos and airports around the country.”
Understandably, the concept may not be a popular one with service industry workers, and, coupled with the newly opened and automated Tipsy Robot bar at Planet Hollywood eliminating any interaction with a human bartender, many might see the impersonal aspect as a slam to their profession. But for the consumer, it may prove to have some merit, as it gives one the freedom to explore their drink at their own pace.