Cheers to DIY!

Cheers to DIY!

Imagine a taproom where you can come as you are, start a tab, and serve yourself from an array of beer, wine, seltzer, and more– a place you can relax and be yourself. No waiting in lines. No rough bar crowd. A place you can be with friends, or bring your kids, and feel safe, but still have fun. You can find all of that and more at Pour House, Hamilton's first self pour taproom.

Husband and wife co-owners Rafael and Toni Salem are excited to be a part of the growth the City of Hamilton is going through, and have found a sense of community since opening May 13, 2022. “There's so much momentum going out here and it's positive momentum,” Rafael said. “Everybody's working well together. Everybody wants to see this prosper.”

What is a self pour taproom? How does it work? Quite literally, it is a bar where you get to be your own bartender. You begin at the counter where you can choose whether to prepay a set amount in cash, or open a tab on a card. The employee pairs the tab you've opened with a Pour House card. Next come the taps. You grab a clean glass, and look through the options – there are 42 of them! Each drink is shown on a screen by its tap. If you'd like to know more about the drink, you can tap on the screen to read a description of it. The screen also shows how much each drink costs per ounce. When you have decided what you want, you set your card on the reader, and pour for yourself. The screen will show you how many ounces you are pouring and a running total.

The Salems first encountered the self pour bar technology while visiting a bar in Tampa, Fl. in 2020. They were instantly intrigued. With backgrounds in plumbing and RFID technology, respectively, it just made sense to them to bring this concept to life in their own way. “It was a no brainer for us,” Rafael said.

As they planned, they knew they had to locate the taproom in Hamilton. “It was just a matter of where, and we were like if it's not going to be in Hamilton, we're not doing it,” Rafael said. “We were very proud and happy to put a business where we're from.”

The Salems, an enthusiastic, energetic couple, poured into creating the perfect atmosphere for their digital taproom. Innovation and quality were key. Every aspect of the design and setup was carefully planned out. “It was all about quality,” Toni said. “We didn't cut corners anywhere. We put a lot of thought, time, effort [into] everything.”

Their goal was a classy, affordable, family friendly setting where you could come in formal clothing or in sweatpants and a t-shirt and be comfortable. “Whether it's a family at the park, or it's a banquet hall that lets out across the street, and they're all in their suits and ties, our ideal customer is really [any],” Toni said.

There is something for everyone at Pour House. The taps always have a selection of domestic beers, nitro beers, craft beers, import beers, ciders, seltzers, mixed drinks, and wines. Supporting local is of importance to the Salems which can be seen in the representation of local businesses such as Municipal Brewworks, Fretboard, Third Eye, Rhinegeist, March 1st, and Hanover Winery. Aside from the 42 on tap beverages, there are also a variety of drinks you can buy and mix at the table yourself.

With only around 200 similar taprooms nationwide, Pour House is on the cutting edge of bar technology and is the first taproom of its kind in the area. The innovative design is user friendly. Even if you are not the most tech savvy person out there, with a little patience and the willingness to learn, you will quickly be serving up refreshing pours of your own. “It's safe. It's friendly. It's streamlined. It's easy. I love watching people pour their own drinks,” Rafael said. “I love the look on their face when they're their own bar tender.”

If alcoholic beverages are not your jam, you have options. Pour House offers a simple menu that does not skimp on quality. In fact, the couple has been shocked by the way the food has been received, even garnering a demand for delivery options through places like Grub Hub, Doordash, and Uber Eats. “We had a demand for our food like that,” Toni said. “We have people here that don't drink that come here just to eat.”

The self serve setup brings a unique experience, unlike what a traditional bar offers. It is easy to monitor what you are spending, so there are no surprises at the end of the night, and with pricing by the ounce, patrons can easily sample as much as they would like. “For less than a dollar, you can pour one and try it,” Toni said.

The Salems have noticed that when people are serving themselves – seeing both how much they are drinking and how much they are spending – they are less likely to over consume. The bar system has parameters in place to ensure people stay safe. You cannot pour more than 36 ounces on a single card without checking in with an attendant, which allows the attendant to observe and helps ensure nobody is over-drinking. In their time open, they have yet to cut someone off, or throw anyone out. “I was amazed by how mature people are being,” Rafael said. “But we also have a very mature patron base here. Even the young ones are very mature.”

Pour House is home to just under ten staff members. 90% of that labor force is in the kitchen. “Our staff [are] awesome,” Rafael said. “We're really proud of our staff. The quality of their work is never indifferent.”

Ever looking for innovative ways to better the experience, patrons can also order from a QR code while hanging out at their table, or allow their tab to automatically close out at the end of the night so they do not have to wait in line. “We try to think of innovative in every sense,” Toni said.

Techies and sports fans alike will enjoy the 13 TVs, and patrons can enjoy listening to their favorite songs on the touchscreen jukebox. There is a wall of board games to play while enjoying the atmosphere. They also have weekly live music by local musicians – ranging everywhere from one person acoustic music, to bands, to open jam sessions. You can even rent out the lounge or the taproom for parties and events.

As they grow, the Salems hope to become more in tune with the community, and find more ways to be involved. They already have partnered with Butler County United Way and The Boys And Girls Club to host dine to donate nights, drives, and round up campaigns. Toni said they want more of that in the future.

The Salems are excited for the future.“We're so passionate about it,” Rafael said. “It's needed. I felt like it's a need. It's cool. It's different.” At Pour House, all age groups mix together and get along.

Friendships are made and community is grown. And it all happens in the heart of the Hamilton Renaissance.

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