South Lake Union’s tech crowds will soon get to pour themselves pints outside their office kegerators: Tapster, a Chicago-based self-serve taproom, will make its West Coast debut this summer in the new Google Cloud building on Mercer Street.
Founder Roman Maliszewski teamed up with Zulily's Dave Atchison and his wife Devon Atchison for the Seattle location, which will be outfitted with 60 taps, each complete with a touch screen to facilitate the beer's per-ounce sale.
But what is a bar without…the bar? The way the Tapster crew sees it, removing the bar enhances a bartender's ability to lead the guest to their ideal drink.
“You still get that bartender experience,” Maliszewski says. “The people that work here aren’t standing behind the bar waiting for you, they’re out on the floor talking to you.” He says the setup, with informational screens at each tap along with a roaming bartender on hand, has also proven helpful for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. And, unless your brew is particularly popular, you won't have to wait in line.
While some in the service industry are skeptical about self-serve taprooms, Shawna Cormier—the beer director for Belltown’s No Anchor and a Cicerone (basically a beer sommelier)—doesn't think they're a direct threat to the traditional bar set up. “If it's a way of getting people involved and interested and breaking down some barriers, then I’m all for that,” Cormier says. Where she sees cause for concern? “Any sort of diminishment of the profession of a bartender.”
Time will tell: While there are rumors of another taproom opening in Capitol Hill, Tapster is slated to be the first in Seattle proper after Washington State legalized self-pour tap rooms in 2018. (Ferndale’s Downtime Taps was the first self-pour location in the state.)
Tapster Seattle will serve beer, wine, craft soda, kombucha, and batched mocktails, with the option to add liquor—for that, you’ll still need the bartender.
Updated 2/28 to reflect Tapster founder Sean Slevin is not a part of the Seattle location.