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If you think an über-twee neighborhood bar that serves beer from the local microbrewery and donates all proceeds to charity sounds like something straight out of the hipster utopia in Portlandia, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. The ballroom of Portland’s Oregon Public House—a soon-to-open nonprofit pub that will, indeed, serve local beer and seasonal, locally sourced food, pay employees fair wages, and donate all its profit to charities—was recently rented out to film a wedding scene in the IFC show.
The idea was conceived by Ryan Saari, a pastor at the Oregon Community who lives about six houses from the new bar in Woodlawn, a gentrifying Portland neighborhood.
“That’s Portland, man. We have more nonprofits per capita than any place in America,” says Saari, 32, a Portland native. “I think being a do-gooder is a really great thing. People can be the change that they want to see in the world.” While he hopes the vision of a nonprofit pub will attract customers at first, he wants it to eventually be known as much for its food and service as it is for its idealistic aspirations.
The average pint will cost $4 to $5. (Not surprisingly, the establishment plans to someday make its own beer.) When customers order food and beverages at the bar, they must also choose one of roughly nine charities they would like their bill to benefit. These will rotate every six to 12 months, Saari explains, and the bar generally will select those involved with social justice, environment, community needs, and the arts rather than purely political causes. Additional revenue will come from rental of the ballroom upstairs.
Oregon Public House has so far raised about $100,000 from community donors toward starting the business and needs to raise about $25,000 more for kitchen and other equipment before it opens, hopefully in the winter or spring. It will hold a fundraiser in September.
Portland is not the only city where residents will be able to drink for their fellow man.
In Washington, D.C., Cause, a self-described “philanthropub,” is also planning to open this fall. Co-founder Nick Vilelle says the company has received a lot of contributed help from the community, which will help it get to profitability much sooner than other restaurants. His goal is to eventually donate $100,000 a year.
“It’s a more socially aware crowd,” says Vilelle, who has worked in the nonprofit world for the past eight years. “This generation is more involved in these issues and asking more of the companies they are buying from.”
In downtown Houston, a group of restaurant and bar owners called the Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs plans to open a “charity bar” at the former Red Cat Jazz Café on Congress Street in November. All proceeds will be donated to a different Houston-based organization or social cause each month, says OKRA President Bobby Heugel. Unlike the Oregon Public House, which is hyper-focusd on providing local products, “this bar is just a casual, fun bar” that will have games such as pool and shuffleboard, he says.
Altruistic imbibing doesn’t stop at pubs, either—there are also charitable brewers. Tonka Beer, a new brewer in Minnetonka, Minn., plans to donate 100 percent of profits to its Save-Our-Lakes organization, which funds initiatives to keep invasive species out of the state’s lakes. Co-founder Chad Mayes says the donation goal this year is $10,000.
And Minneapolis beermaker Finnegans, founded in 2000, donates all of its proceeds to fight hunger through its Finnegans Community Fund. Founder and CEO Jacquie Berglund says the company has so far donated $250,000 from beer and merchandise sales, donors, and events, and its goal this year is $100,000.