Self-Serving: Bonfire Country Bar Wants You to Tend Bar, Too

Adam H. Callaghan

Bonfire Country Bar's self-service beer wall. [Video: Bonfire Country Bar]
In response to yesterday's piece about Stirling & Mull—a bar crowdsourcing the finances for the technology to empower the customer to be the employee—Eater heard from multiple sources that there's a bar coming to Portland planning to incorporate that same tech. Bonfire Country Bar, which crossed our radar recently due to its suspect hiring policies, is hoping to open by the end of August with a self-service beer wall.

Tanner Herget of Old Port Nightlife, a hospitality development and management company that also runs 51 Wharf Nightclub and FortiFem Martini Lounge, shared with Eater a video which explains how their "first in Maine" self-service system works. Check it out. Essentially you buy a beer card for $1, you fill it with as much beer money as you want, and after every 32 ounces that you drink (the amount allowed by Maine's liquor laws) you get it reactivated by a host (assuming you're not judged to be too intoxicated to continue). When you finish for the night, the card (and any money left on it) is yours to keep for next time.

Herget says they asked the Maine liquor board to review the system and it does fall within the law. The board "did say they'd be 'watching' carefully," he adds. Herget also explains that there will be hosts that help to manage customers and the beer wall. Customers looking for more information on the beer choices can check the iPad Minis, which will include descriptions and alcohol content.

When asked about the necessity of self-serve customers tipping on their self-service, Herget explained that tips would not be required of this subset of industrious imbibers. "We will be serving enough food and other things that our bartenders and servers will make their money that way." But customers will still need to see a host every 32 ounces, right? "After 32 ounces, we judge whether or not the person is intoxicated and if not, they can be approved for another round." So will these hosts be working for tips? "It's a simple process to have [customers] 're-upped' so no tip is needed. Our hosts will be checking IDs and guiding them through using the wall and will not rely on tips at all. "

For those looking to skirt the issue, or those trying to avoid the notorious splash-back as a keg kicks while the tap is open, Herget assures us that Bonfire will not only be a self-service beer establishment. "There will be 10 self-serve beers plus 16 drafts behind the bar (different selections than the beer wall) as well as a full liquor license." Let's hear it: Are you excited about the notion of self-service, or do you prefer the traditional system?
Bonfire Campfire Bar [Website, · Facebook, Twitter]
· "Be Your Own Bartender at 'High-Tech' Stirling & Mull" [-EME-]