Fire Station: Adding tech, subtracting losses

It’s a Friday night. You and your friends walk into Fire Station and the first thing that catches your eye, after the glow of the LCD flat screens, is the fact that the liquor bottles on the bar are lighting up. No, you’re not going crazy; it’s just another way technology is invading your night out.

At first glance, it’s hard not to notice the seven 50” LCD flat screens throughout the bar. On top of that, each booth has its own individual 19” flat screen TV, allowing patrons to choose what they’d like to watch for themselves. But while this may be a sport fan’s dream come true, the real show starts behind the bar. According to Fire Station’s manager David Fries, the bar has a $25,000 controlled liquor distribution system from Chicago, the only one of its kind in Central Illinois. It’s run by a computer system that can measure and record the amount of alcohol poured by the bottle, the pint, even down to the ounce. Plus, it lights up.

But why go through all this trouble?

The system is meant to cut down on a common problem in bars: long pours and short pours, or when bartenders give customers more, or less, than they pay for.

The information taken from the system is connected to the bar’s register and inventory. If the amount of alcohol used doesn’t match up with the amount purchased, they know by how much it differs and when the drinks were poured.

“It protects both our investment and ensures our customers get their money’s worth,” explained Fries.

The most noticeable part of the system is the sixteen bottles that line the top of the bar. They are dispensed through a liquor gun (the only one of its kind on campus, Fries noted) which has different buttons with one specific symbol representing each type of liquor. When a button is pressed on the liquor gun and the liquor is being poured, the corresponding bottle lights up above the bar. There are two LED lights behind each of the sixteen bottles which are activated when their button is pressed on the gun. The liquor is then transferred from the bottle to the gun through a series of tubes powered by air compressors found in the basement under the bar. Arrows on the gun are used to control the exact amount of liquor administered: half shot, full shot, or double.

For the rest of the liquor, there are special tops placed in the mouths of the bottles with computer chips. In order for the liquor to be poured from the bottle, the bottle must be hooked up to its base, which can tell you which alcohol is being poured and how much of it. Even the beer on tap is connected to the system and the amount used and when it’s used is recorded and sent to the main computer downstairs.

Overall, it’s a fascinating system and it becomes even more fascinating watching it in motion. For those who know how hectic bars can be on weekends, it’s hard to imagine that all the activity behind the bar breaks down to a couple computer chips, a liquor system and a spreadsheet of numbers. but knowing as a customer that you’re getting what you paid for? Well, that’s priceless.