Elmhurst craft beer restaurant bringing self-serve taps to Naperville

An Elmhurst establishment named the best new restaurant of 2017 by the Daily Herald's Readers' Choice Best of the Best awards now plans to open in Naperville.

Red Arrow Tap Room is adding a downtown Naperville location at 216 S. Washington St. to its expansion plans, which also include a location in downtown Lisle.

The new restaurant will take the place of the former Kuma's Asian Bistro, and it will bring both a customer bar and a new way to get drinks — a wall of automatic, self-service taps.

Red Arrow CEO Joe Tota told the Naperville liquor commission each customer 21 and older can receive a card that will dispense up to 24 ounces of beer from 48 wall-mounted taps featuring local and craft brews.

Customers insert their card into the tap of their choice, then choose how many ounces of beer they want to pour. Once 24 ounces are used, customers can request another card. Tota said the average patron drinks 28 to 32 ounces in a visit.

“Clients come in for a great meal and an educational experience about craft beer,” Tota said.

Red Arrow caters to a family clientele with a kids menu and mainly low tables instead of high-tops, he said. It also offers classes such as Beer 101 and a craft beers course to educate locals about the options in the area, which is known for its high number of small breweries.

Inside the restaurant, employees called Beer Ambassadors watch over the taps and answer questions about the selections. Tota told liquor commissioners they also look out to ensure patrons have not consumed too much.

Designs for the Naperville restaurant would seat 58 people. Tota's business plan calls for hours of 4 to 11 p.m. daily, although he said Red Arrow might explore opening the new restaurant for lunch as well.

While the unusual, self-service mode of dispensing alcohol is permitted under the city's Class B liquor license for restaurants and taverns, the liquor commission wants to take a look at regulating it more in the future.

The panel directed City Prosecutor Kavita Athanikar to develop language for a permit that could control the use of self-service taps in bars and restaurants. If the liquor commission and the city council approve such a permit, operators like Red Arrow could be required to apply for it as a way for the city to oversee how they let customers dispense their own drinks.

Liquor commissioners said they especially want to address training and whether the city's Beverage Alcoholic Sellers and Servers Education Training needs to be amended to teach new strategies to provide for safe consumption from self-serve taps.

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