The Sacramento Kings arena will let guests in its suite and loft areas make their own drinks at the Golden 1 Center using an internet-connected gadget affixed to the top of liquor bottles to monitor how much alcohol is being poured.
It sounds like a good idea from the venue’s point of view: the NINA bottle-mounted device may reduce staffing costs (sorry, bartenders) and help with liquor ordering and other cost controls (Update: a Kings spokesperson says no bartenders are losing their job to the internet-connected liquor dispenser). It’s not totally clear, however, why guests who pay between $1,000 and $15,000 for premium seating at the arena would want to buy their drinks like they’re shoppers in a self-checkout grocery lane. But the Golden 1 Center says the devices will “allow guests to skip the lines and stay safe.”
Here’s how it works: you use a connected tablet to open a bar tab. You choose the drink you want, and a nearby bottle with the NINA attachment will light up to signal it’s unlocked and ready for use. The device then measures out the amount of alcohol your drink order requires. NINA is being used in a handful of Golden 1 Center suites now, the team says, and the device will be used in all suites and lofts in the coming months.
The team is touting the NINA device as a “gamechanger” that will allow guests to “customize the event experience.” I mean, I guess so? If we think cashier-less stores are a good thing and are okay with technology making it a little bit easier for wealthier people to get a non-vital product delivered to them a little faster without having to wait in line and interact with service personnel, then, sure, this is a technological breakthrough.
The team said in a press release announcing the partnership with NINA that the suites and lofts that have been testing the device have seen a “significant increase in revenue” from last year, although they don’t provide specifics.
All this is not to say the NINA device wouldn’t be useful, and it may make the drink-pouring process quicker without resorting to pre-batched concoctions. A liquor-measuring device would be ideal at medium-sized events like weddings where you could keep Uncle Bob from getting plastered before the toast and keep a handle on how much that open bar is costing you.
But nickel-and-diming guests who are already paying a premium for seats at a basketball game out of a few ounces of vodka feels a little cheap. Also, it takes away the social experience of interacting with a bartender whose expertise might make the drink a little more enjoyable.
Update: February 27th, 4:01 PM ET: Added comment from Kings’ spokesperson.