Philanthropubs – Good Times, Good Causes

By Alexandra Beane — December 13, 2012

Philanthropub – probably not a word most people are familiar with. But they’re starting to pop up, and with customer support, you might soon find one in your own area. Also known as non-profit pubs, they are what they sound like – drinking (and eating) establishments where profits go to worthy causes. A chance to hang out with friends, put back a few beers, and help a good cause all at the same time – what could be better?

CAUSE, which opened in October 2012, has been called “the world’s first non-profit bar.”  It is located close to prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C. Their motto is “Changing the world – one beer at a time.” Four organizations that help underprivileged people, mostly in the D.C. area, are the first beneficiaries of the funds raised by CAUSE.

  • Agora Partnerships works to “accelerate the success of early-stage impact of companies in Latin America who are “solving social and environmental challenges.” They have offices in Washington, D.C. and Managua, Nicaragua.


  • Common Good City Farm is an urban farm and education center that teaches low income residents how to grow their own food in order to “help increase food security, improve health, and contribute to environmental sustainability.”


  • Higher Achievement is a “rigorous afterschool and summer academic program” for middle school youth in at-risk communities. It has achievement centers in Washington, DC, Alexandria and Richmond, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Pittsburgh, PA.


  • Martha’s Table provides “sustainable solutions to poverty” through education, nutrition, clothing, and family support programs in Washington, D.C.

The founders, Nik Vilelle and Raj Ratwani, who met in grad school, both have advanced degrees in psychology, but no food industry expertise, so they brought in experts who had run successful restaurants. CAUSE donates all profits (after paying operating costs and salaries) to the organizations they have chosen to support. They hope to take the concept global. “We don’t want to be just ‘the charity bar,’ ” says Vilelle. “We want people to come in for the food, the drinks, and have it just be a bonus that we give to charity.”

CAUSE serves a number of drinks from breweries and wineries that support charitable organizations.  They also have unique cocktails named for well-known activists, including Harvey Milk, Mahatma Gandhi, and Eva Peron. Their food menu emphasizes “sustainability and local ingredients.” Although most of the items on the menu contain meat, the chefs at CAUSE are very well trained to adjust them to accommodate vegans and vegetarians.

Across the country, in Portland, OR, known for its high concentration of brewpubs and non-proft organizations, it’s not surprising to find another philanthropub preparing to open this winter. The Oregon Public Houses slogan is “Have a pint. Change the world.” Profits will go to local non-profit organizations, most of them Portland-based, that promote social justice, and community and environmental causes. In this pub, customers can choose the beneficiary of their money when they order. The pub is the brainchild of local pastor Ryan Saari, who also plans to start raising money to build an independent brewery once the pub is open. “We’ve set ourselves up in a unique way to become the fundraising department for various local charitable organizations,” Saari has received help from other members of his church in renovating the space above a ballroom and getting the pub running, but don’t expect any proselytizing with your beer. Saari says, “The only tie-in with the church is in vision and in heart.”

The Oregon Public House’s food and beer selections are still being developed. They are asking for menu suggestions from the public on their website.

Many a bar around the world is named Shebeen, which derives from an Irish word meaning “an establishment where liquor is sold without a license,” but the Shebeen Bar in Melbourne, Australia will be something unique. Social entrepreneur Simon Griffiths’ non-profit bar, currently set to open early in 2013, will benefit projects in developing nations. Shebeen will feature beers and wines from the developing world. Two dollars from each drink will go towards a development project in that drink’s country of origin, such as microfinancing in Ethiopia, or hospitality training in Vietnam.

Shebeen beers are already available in Melbourne bars. The profits from those beers are going towards funding their bar. The bottles have tags with messages such as: “What if drinking this beer could enable an Ethiopian to start a business by buying a food cart to sell produce on the street?” or “What if drinking this wine you could train and empower a Child Safety Officer who cares for kids that have been tortured and raped in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa?”

“We are changing the way philanthropy occurs,” Griffith told Melbourne’s The Age newspaper. “Our personal mandate is that we support projects that allow individuals to participate in the economy where they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”

We may see many more philanthropubs in the years to come, but these entrepreneurs are leading the way in founding establishments that provide good times, and promote good causes.
Courtesy Image: Cause -The Philanthropubs

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