Drinking For A Good Cause

Drinks

On the surface, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon may look like a typical bar, with patrons eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company. But the Houston bar is remarkably different in that its owners donate all of its profits to charitable organizations. Every month, four charities compete for the funds, and customers choose the winner.

By the end of the year, Original OKRA Charity Saloon will have donated about $300,000 to a dozen different charities - three times the owners' expectations.

"It was a good year. It's pretty amazing," said Mike Criss, the bar's general manager. "It's just the community coming together."

The charity saloon is one of several bars around the country using that business model as a way to give back. There are similar bars or concepts in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.

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The Oregon Public House, a similar bar in Portland, has also had success — donating more than $15,000 to charities in its first six months of operation.

"I believe in this model, not just for us but for my city, for our state, for our country," said Ryan Saari, director of The Oregon Public House's board. "I think there is a lot of good that could be done, stepping outside of the box a little bit in terms of how we support and fund our nonprofits."

Proceeds from Original OKRA have benefited organizations for the homeless, as well as a group that reaches out to veterans. Owners and customers alike get to see the good they achieve right in their own communities - an idea that may spread to other cities.

Criss and Saari said they believe charity bars will be embraced by other communities. They've already received calls from people in Canada, England, France and India interested in the concept.

"We never thought it would be this big, where it is right now," Criss said. "I'm still amazed."

Bars that do good for their community? I'm sure plenty of people would drink to that.

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This post contains an image from ShutterStock.