Food

Downtime Taps

Pour your own in Ferndale

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If you’ve ever had the yen to pour your own beer, cider or wine in a taproom, the good news is you can—if you head to Downtime Taps in Ferndale.

Located on Labounty Drive, the state’s first self-serve taproom is a warmly decorated, fun space. It opened in July with 1,900 square feet, 46 seats and cool decor including barn doors, masonry, a lengthy rectangular gas fireplace and a shelf with games that encourages patrons to get comfortable and stay awhile.

An antique crowler or canning machine rests on a counter, and if customers want beer to go they simply ask for it and leave the taproom with a 30-ounce sealed can.

Downtime Taps is unlike any of Ferndale’s other bars, and you only need to step inside to see why. For one thing, there are no lines, no waiting for a bartender to serve you.

“Even when the place is really busy, you might see three or four people at the tap wall for a few minutes and then they’re gone,” Tomas Aminnie says. The 25-year-old entrepreneur co-owns Downtime Taps with partner Chay Tan, 37.

When customers arrive they are given RFID bracelets that track the quantity and price of beer ($6-$7 per pint) they pour. With 24 beers, four ciders and four wines on tap, choices abound. To prevent inebriation, the bracelets tap out at 24 ounces. After that, customers are required to approach the cash desk if they want more—a discretionary decision made by the staff.

But there’s not much inebriation going on here. “Our average pour is 4.4 ounces, and that tells me our customers aren’t interested in consuming high quantities of beer,” Aminnie says. “They want small quantities and they want to figure out what they like because they’re here to enjoy the product. In a way they’re drinking less, but more varieties of flavors.”

When one beer runs out, Aminnie and Tan select something new from a different brewer to keep the variety interesting. Customers request the beers they want by voting on Downtime Taps’ website, and while many of the taps feature local offerings, there’s also a decent selection from outside of Washington state.

Aminnie was a Western Washington University student working part-time at Coconut Kenny’s when he first experienced a self-serve tap bar during a visit to Rhode Island three years ago. He loved the concept and had a gut feeling it would work in Whatcom County. But it took three years before Tan, who is Coconut Kenny’s owner, agreed to become his business partner.

After Aminnie’s mentor and friend bought the idea, he helped him secure a location and they began construction of Downtime Taps. The process was halfway finished when the pair learned they’d been denied a liquor license. “At the time we applied we didn’t know that in Washington state it was illegal for customers to pour their own alcohol,” Aminnie says.

So they hired state lobbyist Chris Mar, and together with a spokesperson from iPourIt, a company specializing in the self-serve beverage-dispense technology, headed to Olympia. Once they explained the concept to legislators, their permit was granted. 

Chances are you’ll meet Aminnie if you visit Downtime Taps, as he’s a hands-on owner who greets customers with a big smile and takes care of the many details involved in running the business. He’s on a break from his studies and is loving this business immersion.

“It’s been awesome since we opened,” he says. “The community support has been great, and I love talking to people who are enthusiastic about beer. Our customers have told us this is a beer lover’s dream because everyone wants to be able to pull that handle and pour their own beer.”

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