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Downtown Springfield will soon add a “geek bar” to the nightlife mix: 417 Taphouse.
On Wednesday, as he was at work gluing together bits of a Star Wars Boba Fett mosaic made entirely of beer bottle caps, Zachery Campbell said he and co-owner Harry Crawford want their pub to stand apart from noisy sports bars.
“If I’m out at a bar, I’m there to drink beer and talk to friends,” Campbell said.
Campbell buddied up with Crawford when the two were co-workers at Positronic, a manufacturer of electronic connectors. Then and now, the two pepper their conversation with references to movies, comic books and TV shows like “Deadpool,” “Firefly” and “Archer.”
“We have so many sports bars,” Campbell said. “But there’s got to be a crowd that’s like me” — visibly geeky and proud of it — “and that’s a market that we’re going after.”
Campbell and Crawford are also trumpeting a new way to drink beer: self-service.
Guests get to pour draft beer themselves at a wall of beer taps. Each tap on the wall is activated by a radio-frequency identification card. The RFID cards are issued to guests when they open a tab at the bar. If it sounds too complicated, guests can hit up bartenders in the traditional manner.
417 Taphouse is shooting for an opening date of Sept. 1, pending liquor license approval. It’s located at 431 S. Jefferson Ave., in the same Wilhoit Plaza suite once occupied by Farmers Gastropub and the original Ophelia’s. The redbrick outdoor patio used by those establishments will be part of the new bar.
The taphouse will showcase craft beers, with 26 of them on tap. Familiar brands like Mother’s Brewing Company, White River Brewing Company, Schlafly and Deschutes will flow alongside ones less common in Springfield like Urban Chestnut, Founders Brewing and Root Sellers Brewing Company.
Once customers drink 32 ounces of beer (i.e., two pints), state law requires they speak to a staff member to get their tabs reauthorized and their RFID cards running again. This allows staff to check people from over-serving themselves.
417 Taphouse is also a package store. Like a draft beer from the self-serve wall? Buy a six-pack to take home from the bar’s bottle shop.
Two of the bar’s tables will be outfitted with beer taps, one of which will be a booth exclusively devoted to beer from Mother’s. The other table seats eight to 10, and guests can even reserve it 48 hours in advance, requesting beer taps of their choice to be installed.