Drinking at the Bellagio: How Booze Travels Over 90 Miles of Tubes from a Secret Room to Your Glass
Ed Komenda | Las Vegas Sun | August 27, 2013 11:58pm
Aug. 28--A few steps from the elevators of an "Employees Only" floor at the Bellagio, there's a long, cream-colored hallway that smells like booze.
"You smell that?" asks Jill Niehoff, the Bellagio's assistant beverage manager.
It's hard not to. Inch closer to a pair of double doors across the hall from the resort's carpentry office, and the alcoholic aroma grows stronger. Peek through a pair of windows and you find the source.
"Welcome to our famous pump room," Niehoff says, opening the door.
The Bellagio's pump room is the brain center of the resort's beverage operation. Almost 2,000 bottles line the walls and supply alcohol to each of the resort's 53 bar and restaurant beverage stations.
A similar room powers drink nozzles at Aria.
MGM Resorts International has relied on the rooms to quench thirsts since the resorts opened, replicating the setup at other MGM properties.
Each station connects to 48 brands of alcohol. Each bartender's gun accommodates multiple pour sizes and 144 pre-programmed cocktails, some containing up to five liquors.
About 38 bartenders every shift siphon liquor from the pump room to thousands of drinkers who pass through the casino every day. The system limits waste by pouring perfectly measured shots.
The room is quite a sight. The apparatus looks like a veiny machine out of a low-budget science-fiction flick.
Rows of metal racks hold hundreds of booze bottles upside down. Liquids continuously feed into multiple mouths of a complex system of plastic tubes. Bottles burp with bubbles.
When a bartender pulls out her beverage gun and pushes the button for, say, Drambuie, a wall-mounted spring pump triggers an air compressor in the room. A shot of air pushes a premeasured dose of liqueur through tubes hidden in the walls.
In all, the tubing stretches 90 miles, the distance from Las Vegas to Laughlin.
Though made of clear plastic, the tubes change color when filled with booze. Johnny Walker Red turns the veins red. Tequila, a faded yellow. Kahlua, the darkest brand in the system, a dark brown.
Depending on the bar's location in the casino, the alcohol travels between 1,000 and 10,000 feet before it hits a glass.
Stored in boxes instead of bottles, mixers such as Sprite, ginger ale and tonic water are sent to bars in the same manner.
Bartenders serve up an average of 67 shots per shift.
There's always plenty of booze to go around. The pump room holds up to 1,800 bottles of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, cordials, bourbon, scotch and whiskey.
The only exception? Bailey's Irish Creme. The liquor is too thick to pass through the tubes.
Designed by Las Vegas liquor management company Easy Bar, the pump room requires little maintenance. Because germs can't survive in alcohol, the tubes stay clean. If there's a leak, a technician can make surgical repairs.
Outside of the machine's daily bustle, there's not much activity in the room. The system is self-sufficient and controlled by a computer. A porter has to visit every shift to make sure there are no empty bottles, but that's rare, since the tubes feed from several bottles of the same brand at all times.
Some jokingly call the room the Bellagio's "intensive care unit." If you have a cold and work at the resort, it's the place to be.
"It clears you up," Niehoff said.
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By the numbers
$250,000: The average cost to install a pump room in a casino resort
1,800: The number of bottles Bellagio's pump room can hold
90: The number of miles of drink tubing that runs through Bellagio
26: The number of miles of drink tubing at Aria
53: The number of bars at Bellagio
67: The average number of shots Bellagio bartenders serve per shift