Ryan Cavanaugh has a vision for downtown Topeka: a restaurant and pub called Brew Bank, where customers can access a wall of 20 electronic, self-serve beer taps as a way to mingle and try local brews.
“It’s just about a community experience,” he said. “For the patrons to be able to try all of these beers and try them responsibly in small amounts is just an exciting thing.”
The devices let customers use an electronic card to dispense brews.
“Let’s face it,” Cavanaugh said, “the technology’s just really cool.”
Contest judges in Topeka recently agreed. The Brew Bank idea, pushed by Cavanaugh and his partners, won a $100,000 award in the recent Top Tank contest for entrepreneurs. That was modeled on the TV show Shark Tank and featured business proposals vying for investment dollars.
Brew Bank came out on top in the contest but then ran into a problem.
“We did not know that it was not legal in Kansas,” Cavanaugh told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday.
Now, Cavanaugh and others are asking lawmakers for passage of a bill to allow this type of business in the state. He said pour-your-own pubs are allowed in most states.
Kansas already allows self-serve wine taps, although a state regulator said none are currently in use.
Some lawmakers had questions about underage drinking, but Cavanaugh said customers would be ID’d when getting their cards. Those cards would limit how much beer a person can buy.
Lawmakers also asked about trading the “tap cards,” or otherwise misusing them.
“If there was a market for it, could I come in, buy my card, take it outside and sell it to somebody?” Republican Sen. Ty Masterson asked.
Cavanaugh said the photo from a customer’s ID would be saved in the system so staff members could see if someone was using another person’s card.
“You’re tied to your card,” Cavanaugh said. “Everything is monitored.”
The self-serve pub idea has taken hold in other areas. Ruins Pub, featuring 40 do-it-yourself taps, opened in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2015.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.
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