Alcohol vending machines: the future of your Friday night

Buying a beer could be as easy as pressing a button after this legislative session.

Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) is working to legalize the sale of alcohol in vending machines at certain establishments licensed for the on-premise consumption of alcohol. Vice chair Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) laid out the bill at a hearing for the bill Monday.

Customers would present their IDs to the establishment’s staff and receive a wristband to verify that the consumer is over 21 years old, Gutierrez said.

“The customer must present an employee of the establishment with a valid ID, which is scanned into a database and tied to a customer’s credit card,” Gutierrez said. “The customer is then given a uniquely encoded wristband to access the machine.”

The bands would track the amount of alcohol consumed by a bar patron and limit alcohol intake. Vending machine users would be cut off after 30 ounces of beer, 10 ounces of wine or three ounces of liquor, Gutierrez said.

The standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine and about one-and-a-half ounces of liquor.

“The automated dispensing machine system benefits businesses by reducing overhead and staff costs, allowing for easier management of inventory, strictly controlling customers’ consumption and guarding against underage drinking,” Gutierrez said.

Alexandria Allen, a Management Information Systems senior and bartender on Red River Street, said she thinks the machines could limit bartender wages,  as many of them depend on tips.

“It would kind of make things more difficult for the wait staff and bartenders because we make our money based on how many drinks we give to people and how we do it,” Allen said. “If they’re getting their wristbands from us, but they’re getting their beer from vending machines, then it kind of cuts out a lot of our money.”

Minors could also potentially use others’ wristbands, Allen said.

“I’m pretty sure the wristband can somehow be taken off and transferred between people,” Allen said.

Although she has her concerns about the bill, Allen said the machines could reduce alcohol consumption since it would automatically cut people off after a certain number of drinks.

Shane Ali, a biology senior who used to bartend house parties, said he believes the machines would work best in establishments where non-student crowds work. He said, in his experience, bartenders are necessary to monitor rowdy college crowds.

Students also tend to order specialty drinks that may not be available in vending machines, Ali said.

“One of the reasons that people go to bars are for, like, their favorite shot or fancy shots that are being made instead of a glass of wine or a quick beer,” Ali said.

According to advertising junior Kara Endahl, vending machines could be more convenient when at a crowded bar or other establishment.

“I think it would save a lot of time because the lines at bars get so backed up, especially if there’s a big game going on,” Endahl said. “I know last time we were waiting for, like, 30 minutes for a beer.”