There is self-service for gasoline at the pump, soda at the fast-food joint, and groceries at the supermarket.
Next time you're at a corner bar, how about you get your own beer?
Tir na Nog, a pub in the Phoenix, at 16th and Arch Streets, recently rolled out a two-tap self-service beer bar that seats six to eight people, the first of its kind in the city, and among the first on the East Coast.
"Everybody wants to be a bartender," manager Ken Merriman said Wednesday night as patrons pulled their own brews. The portable setup sits in clear view of the big-screen television.
Ellickson International - the Irish manufacturer, which has a development deal with Diageo, Guinness' parent company - is marketing the $10,000 Draft Master not only for the novelty factor but for its economic benefits.
Draft Master's promotional material tells bar owners they will get paid for every drop of beer. Because the customer pours exactly how much beer he or she wants, there's also "no waste."
Declan Duggan, a sales representative, said a bar owner whose self-service unit sells the equivalent of two kegs a week could recoup the investment in six months.
Which raises an issue that Don Russell, the local beer expert known as Joe Sixpack, has heard: Self-service bars can promote excess consumption.
But Russell doesn't buy that argument. "It's not any different than putting pitchers on a table," he said in an interview Thursday.
Another argument is that self-service could eat into gratuities. Tir na Nog waitresses said that had not happened because patrons so far had also ordered food and tipped on the grand total.
Tir na Nog's table is fitted with twin taps coming out of the top to dispense Guinness and Carlsberg. It is outfitted with a digital readout, allowing patrons and staff to measure consumption. The taps are turned on and off by a computer behind the bar that also runs the tab, which is settled by a waitress.
Within the round wooden bar are two kegs and the nitrogen and carbon dioxide used to pump the beer.
Staffers check the ID of all patrons, just as they do at the bar. A representative of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said the self-service setup did not violate the code.
Self-service beer at Tir na Nog costs $6.50 per 20-ounce Imperial pint, the same as the bar price. The bar is mostly reserved through this weekend's World Cup matches.
Colleagues Frances Bevan, Roopak Majmudar, and Matt Marnitz, seated at the table Wednesday after work, thought it was a great idea.
"It needs to interface with your iPhone," Majmudar said, grinning.
"And there should be Twitter on this, too," Marnitz added.
Not surprisingly, they work for Comcast Corp.'s national engineering and technical operations unit.
Getting technical is nothing new for Guinness. The Irish brewer is fixated on its six-step pouring system, and its trainers circle the globe teaching bartenders.
Merriman gave Marnitz a quick lesson.
"You have to lean the glass at a 45-degree angle, pour it three-quarters of the way up, let it sit, and then you pour it the rest of the way," Marnitz said, repeating the salient points.
After having seen the table for himself, Russell said, "I'd prefer a professional pourer, but it might not be as much fun."
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