10 Charitable Bars to Make You Feel Good About Drinking
A well-made cocktail is a delight, but one that also benefits a charity is downright soul healing. Across the country, bars are taking two great things—drinks and donations—and making them one. On any given night, thousands of dollars are being passed on from members of the drinking class to those in need.
It’s inspiring to see how far our drinking dollars can go, and it’s a great excuse to go out on a Monday and buy an extra round. For the best of the best, we zeroed in on bars and hospitality groups that have a near continuous flow of contributions. Here are 10 bars from coast to coast that regularly donate to a charity or non-profit organization.
Oregon Public House in Portland, Oregon
Vitals: Open every day at 11:30 a.m. Closes at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour runs every day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close.
Few things sound as inspiring as the Oregon Public House motto: “Have a pint, change the world.” Portland is just as famous for its beer as it is for its nonprofits (it has more organizations per capita than any other city in the country), so it’s no surprise that the first nonprofit U.S. taproom opened in the Emerald City. Setting aside the bar’s location, Ryan Saari—the president and founder of Oregon Public House—tells Supercall that it’s successful because of the inherent good vibes of drinking for a cause. The model, he says, can work anywhere that “people want to go out and where there is a need.” Since opening in May 2013, Oregon Public House has donated more than $151,000 to charity.
Although Oregon Public House donates all of its proceeds to nonprofit partner charities, it’s not recognized as a tax-exempt operation. But that hasn’t stopped it from giving to the greater good. Every person who buys a drink gets to vote on where the money should go from a list of charities, which include Growing Gardens, The Odd Man Inn and Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls.
Smith Hospitality bars and restaurants in New Jersey
Every month, Smith Hospitality runs a promotion called “Cocktails for a Cause.” A featured cocktail is paired with a charity picked by the bar staff, and a portion of proceeds from the sales go to the chosen charity. Multiple locations create the opportunity for a charitable bar crawl of sorts, each with different vibes and themes.
Past charities have included a custom Daiquiri with Don Q rum at Little Buddy Hideaway to benefit Donate Puerto Rico, drinks at multiple Smith Hospitality establishments that benefited United for Puerto Rico, and hurricane relief donations at Brickwall Tavern. While the cocktail and charity normally rotate every month, a Save The Whales donation at Little Buddy Hideaway—featuring a cocktail called Blackfish—has proved popular enough to run for a couple months.
Madam's Organ in Washington, D.C.
Vitals: Opens at 5 p.m. and features live entertainment every day of the week starting at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and starting at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Charity events are held on Thursday.
Thursday nights are non-profit nights at Madam’s Organ, a tradition that launched a few months after the bar opened in 1992. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., $1 of every item sold is donated to the charity of the night. Past charities include the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cupid’s Undie Run, the Congo Leadership Initiative and the female mentoring organization Big Dreamz.
It doesn’t end with monetary donations, either. “Madam’s Organ opened 25 years ago in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and we have always felt a need to make those less fortunate in the neighborhood feel welcome in the community,” says Wendy Reynolds, the assistant general manager. “Our responsibility is to the community and especially the neighborhood youth.”
Since 1996, the Duggan family, who owns Madam’s Organ, has taken local children, who would normally never have the chance to see the ocean, to the Delaware shore. The bar also gives out food and snacks for good report cards and hosts a Christmas party for more than 100 underprivileged kids and their families.
Gran Eléctrica in Brooklyn, New York
Vitals: A Mexican restaurant and bar with a market-driven food menu and agave-focused cocktail list.
Gran Eléctrica features a monthly cocktail that benefits a specific charity, alongside a menu that highlights local and sustainable produce. The extensive bar program is where much of the donations come from. Most recently, Gran Eléctrica donated $1 from every Sin Fronteras cocktail—made with sotol, Aperol and mezcal—to the American Civil Liberties Union. Past donations have gone to Black Lives Matter, Red Nose Day, The UN Refugee Agency and others.
Those cocktails are beneficial in more ways than one. Gran Eléctrica has a line of “bat friendly” agave spirits certified by the Tequila Interchange Project. Without bats, there would be no agave. Without agave, there would be fewer cocktails for Gran Eléctrica to dedicate to charity. Win-win.
The Ginn Mill in Denver, Colorado
Vitals: Opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday. Located next to Coors Field, it’s a local spot for pre- and post-game drinks. Charity nights are on Monday evenings.
The Ginn Mill’s weekly charity events are called “Make a Difference Mondays,” when the bar features an organization from a rotating list. From open to close, 100 percent of profits are donated to the nonprofit of the week. On busy nights, The Ginn Mill has raised as much as $5,000 in a single evening. During the past seven years, the bar has donated more than $250,000 to various charities, according to co-founder Jonathan Weaver. It’s a charitable model that he believes can be replicated across the country.
“I think that Make a Different Mondays has helped expose us to lesser-known charities and/or up and coming charities that do not get as much press as other large-scale events,” Weaver says. “Additionally, MADM has given us the opportunity to contribute to local organizations that otherwise we would not have known about. Monday nights often bring patrons to The Ginn Mill that otherwise would not frequent our establishment or this part of Denver.”
Noir at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Vitals: Located in the hotel lobby of The Charles Hotel and open daily from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Noir may draw inspiration from bleak 1940s film noir, yet its charitable message is anything but grim. Throughout the year, Noir creates a specialty cocktail and donates the proceeds to a handpicked cause. Past donations have been made to the Charles River Watershed Association during a #MulesForACause event, Lovin’ Spoonfuls at a custom Negroni soiree, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation after people imbibed “Think Pink” cocktails.
Barrio in Portland, Oregon
Vitals: A small beer and wine bar located inside Portland Mercado.
Barrio is a Latin-focused beer and wine bar in the Portland Mercado, a diverse plaza with 16 businesses that feature food, art and entertainment. The bar is a delightful dose of Latin American-focused beer and wine, both on draft and in bottles. The “Old World style Cantina” complements the other companies in the Portland Mercado, and it also helps them out monetarily. A percentage of profits from every beverage purchased at Barrio goes back to Portland Mercado’s arts and cultural programming, and supports small business development in the area.
213 Hospitality’s bars in Los Angeles, California
The Downtown L.A.-based 213 Hospitality group partnered with The Spirit Group to create its very own nonprofit called Spirited Coalition for Change. Los Angeles has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country (around 60,000 individuals), a spokesperson for 213 Hospitality tells Supercall. Spirited Coalition for Change’s goal is to raise funds and awareness to help solve the growing housing crisis.
Six of 213 Hospitality’s bars have a community drink on the menu. For each one sold, $1 is given to a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Spirited Coalition for Change has raised close to $30,000 so far.
Waydown in Chicago, Illinois
Vitals: Located on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. (3 a.m. on Saturday).
Waydown makes it easy to lift your spirits. In October and November, the bar donated $1 from each Daiquiri sold to Direct Relief, an organization that supports victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In December, it was $1 from every Rum Espresso Martini. To ring in 2018, Waydown celebrated with a featured cocktail, and $1 of each sale went to the Chicago Period Project.
OKRA Charity Saloon in Houston, Texas
Vitals: Open every day from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., with a weekday happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. that features $3 draft beer, $4 wells and half-price wine.
The idea for OKRA started in 2009 and things got off the ground in December 2012. The powerhouse bar donates 100 percent of proceeds to a different Houston-based nonprofit every month. As of October 2017, OKRA had donated more than $1 million to a variety of charities.
OKRA uses a mix of people’s choice and managerial discretion to determine which charities get the proceeds. With each food item and drink purchase, a customer also gets a ticket to vote on one of four charities that OKRA’s board members selected for that month. Whichever charity has the most votes at the end of the month gets the following month’s profit. Donations have ranged from $15,000 to $30,000 in the past. Some of the charities that OKRA has helped include the Art League of Houston, Paws for Heroes and The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.