With its self-service beer technology, Oak & Stone puts the customer in charge.
Necessity often gets the credit as being the mother of invention. In Mike Santa Lucia’s case, the need was clear: build a better bar.
He describes a familiar scenario: You’re out with friends at a crowded pub, jockeying for position at the bar and attempting to get the bartender’s attention. At a certain point, you think, it might be easier to just jump behind the bar and pour yourself a beer.
That’s the concept behind Oak and Stone, a self-service bar and restaurant, which recently opened in University Park at Honore Avenue and University Parkway.
Santa Lucia says he and co-owner Brett Decklever first came up with the idea on a lazy Sunday afternoon, two years ago.
“We were talking about the concept of a self-service bar, and how cool that would be,” he says. “I started doing some research, and I found out that the technology was available, and we decided to go for it.”
Santa Lucia and Decklever partnered with TableSeide Restaurant Group, owners of Libby’s Cafe and Bar and Louies Modern, to open Oak & Stone. Santa Lucia says the up-and-coming area was an ideal location, and they saw an opportunity to provide something unique.
Using technology called iPourIt, Oak & Stone puts the power in the customers’ hands. Well, on their wrists.
After opening a tab at the bar, each customer receives a bracelet, picks a glass and heads to the beer wall. The beer wall features two rows of 56 different draft beers, arranged by style. Each tap is outfitted with a 7-inch LCD screen, displaying the name of the beer and a brief description of its flavor profile, alcohol content and price per ounce.
After selecting a beer, customers scan the bracelet on the screen and pour as much — or as little — as desired. iPourIt charges in increments as small as 1/10 ounce, which is ideal for sampling or pouring flights. The system keeps track of the total tab cost, and customers pay at the end.
A built-in safety measure requires guests to check in with an employee after drinking 40 ounces of beer, to ensure they aren’t over served.
It’s something new to Sarasota, and as Santa Lucia describes it, it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s like an adult playground,” he says. “The selection is huge, so there’s a beer for everyone. You don’t have to be a craft-beer expert. A lot of the fun is trying samples of something new.”
Santa Lucia grew up working in the restaurant industry in New Jersey. Six years ago, he moved to Sarasota, armed with his great grandmother’s pizza-sauce recipe, and opened Lucia’s Pizza Italian Grill.
He brings that experience — and recipe — to Oak & Stone. In addition to wood-fired artisanal pizza, he collaborated with TableSeide to create a menu offering a wide variety of American fare. And for craft-cocktail lovers, there’s a separate full liquor bar.
“We wanted to bring a great bar to this area,” says Santa Lucia. “Somewhere you can come to enjoy food, beer and liquor. The concept is something completely new to the area. I’m excited to finally see the idea come to life.”