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Self-serve beer is here but questions remain

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - Serve yourself. Just not in Wichita. At least not yet. KSN asked several bars if they want to install a self-serve beer wall.

"No, we will probably just stick to our traditional ways. It's worked before," says Kade Nolte with The Pumphouse in Wichita. "If the trend sets and we have to adapt to survive, we will do what we have to do. But we're doing great now so why change?"

Kade says bartenders have better control over who gets served and who gets cut off if they've had too much.

The self-serve concept seems simple enough. A customer will be able to buy a card in a controlled environment like a bar after showing ID. Then, you can buy a pre-paid card. Then, you can go pour your own beer up to 32 ounces.

And while some Wichita bar managers say they prefer to keep the personal touch of bartenders, some city leaders say that's probably a good idea.

"It will be interesting to see how this unfolds," says James Clendenin, Wichita City Council member. "Obviously, we as a City of Wichita are extremely concerned about the safety of citizens."

Clendenin says he wants to study the law more to see what it means.

KSN asked if the city would approve self-serve kiosks for outdoor, controlled environment events like Wichita experienced with the NCAA tournament in town.

"We will comply with the state law, and we will figure out how we will move forward with districts like Old Town," said Clendenin. "Other outdoor venues? We will study this."

A manager at River City Brewery said he has no plans for a self-serve kiosk, saying bartenders can tell when someone has had enough.

The new state law would require monitoring of the self-serve kiosk from the liquor license holders.

Legislative Research in Topeka says the law is written so the establishment would have to rely on video surveillance and/or personnel in the bar to monitor who is using the pre-paid card.

"Wichita is as ready as anywhere else in the country for something like this. We just have to make sure citizens are protected. And we license those establishments here in the City of Wichita," says Clendenin. "So we're going to need to get familiar with the laws and find out how we need to adjust."

Clendenin also says Old Town businesses have done a good job working with police on keeping people from drinking and driving.

Nolte points out that while they have video cameras in The Pumphouse they have no interest in self-serve kiosks.

"We have cameras covering every square inch of this building. We can tell if there is going to be an issue. We can keep an eye on people," says Nolte. "But I like the personal level where we are able to serve drinks, and the connection that we are able to make with our guests."

KSN reached out to six different businesses in Wichita, but none said it would be trying self-serve kiosks at this time.


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