WICKER PARK — Early next year, a self-serve beer bar named Tapster plans to open in Wicker Park's main hub, just west of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenue intersection.
Tapster is an Old English name for a bartender.
"I looked up a bunch of names for bartender, like barkeep and barman and then I saw tapster. It almost sounds like a made up name, but it's not and it has a lot of cool history behind it," Tapster's owner Roman Maliszewski said Tuesday.
"People love the idea of being able to try a bunch of different beers, but at most bars you can try maybe one or two," Maliszewski said.
At Tapster, patrons will be able to pour themselves up to two pints, or 32 ounces of beer, wine and Kombacha using an electronic "Tapcard" that will dispense drinks by the ounce and charge by the ounce.
Tapcards will be given out at a check-in counter and concierge. Customers can either start a tab or pay cash and get a specific amount of money added to the Tapcard, which deducts as the beer is poured.
There is a slot on the screen above the taps where drinkers place their Tapcard as they are pouring.
Maliszewski said that Tapster will offer 62 taps along a "Tapwall," serving mostly local and craft beers.
Eight of the 62 taps will dispense wine, sparking wine and rose. Four of the taps will stock Kombacha.
Another 12 taps will be for kegged cocktails, divided into eight standards like gin and tonic, whiskey and Coke, and four seasonal cocktails.
After 32 ounces, the Tapcard no longer works. A patron will then need to see a staff member who will make sure they are not overserved.
"It's a check and balance to make sure people are not drinking completely free [of watch]," he said.
In addition to drinks, there will be snacks like craft popcorn and a deli area offering a small selection of meat and cheeses, perhaps an essential component because Tapster plans to apply for an incidental liquor license typically reserved for restaurants and not taverns, Maliszewski said.
"The whole concept is a tasting bar and we want the menu to complement that," he said.
Maliszewski said he is working with architects from Oak Park's Ridgeland & Associates to develop a layout for the 3,000-square-foot spot, which he is targeting for a capacity of 150 patrons.
A Wicker Park resident for the past five years, Mileszewski previously lived and worked in San Francisco at advertising and technology firms before returning to Chicago, where he got a job at Pour My Beer with a goal of eventually opening his own self-serve bar.
As vice president of sales at Pour My Beer, Maliszewski supplies bar owners, breweries and hotels around the country with machines that allow customers to serve themselves.
Tapster will use the same Pour My Beer technology that local spots like Hopsmith and FatPour offer, though the North Avenue bar will be solely dedicated to the self-pour concept.
And for those concerned about a lack of interaction or customer service, rest assured plenty of humans will be onsite, too.
Maliszewski and his business partner Sean Slevin plan to hire about 20 employees, some of whom will staff a "shot bar" in the back of the bar that will serve whiskey, bourbon and other liquors in pure or "neat" pours of one or two ounces.
Other Tapster employees will circulate among the wall of self-serve taps, similar to the customer experience at Apple stores, Maliszewski said.
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