The Oregon Public House is putting a new spin on guilt-free dining – and it doesn’t have anything to do with calories. The restaurant and gathering space – which bills itself as “the world’s first non-profit pub” – gives 100 percent of its net profits to charity.
The Public House, located at N.E. 7th and Dekum, just marked its first anniversary. That’s a nice milestone for any pub, but especially one with such a radical way of doing business. Then again, if such a bold idea is going to work anywhere, it’s bound to work here. Portland is home to more breweries than any other city in the world, and also hosts more non-profit organizations per capita than any other city in America.
“The concept is unconventional, but it makes perfect sense,” says Cosgrave attorney Marcus Reed, board member for The Oregon Public House. “Everyone loves to grab a beer and a bite to eat at their neighborhood pub. And if you’re going to do that anyway, why not have the profits go to a great charity?”
The Oregon Public House has a rolling list of groups it works with, covering a wide range of the nonprofit world. Right now, for instance, the profits from your pint could go toward environmental stewardship at the Columbia Land Trust, social justice initiatives through the Black United Fund, animal welfare with Fences for Fido or several other options.
How it began
Like so many great ideas, the plan for the The Oregon Public House was hatched in a backyard over a few beers. Pastor Ryan Saari, a native Portlander who had just moved back to his home city in 2009, wanted to find a way to affect change without getting religion involved.
“I had this dream and I had this hope of starting an organization that gave back to our city in some way, but didn’t have that baggage of religion attached to it,” he told an audience at a TedX Talk at Concordia University in February. “Something where we could partner with everyone in the community, regardless of background.”
Saari and company relied upon the generosity and expertise of the Woodlawn neighborhood where they are located, and volunteer board members like Reed, to turn their dream into reality.
Of course, it takes more than a good cause to keep people coming back through the door. As it turns out, The Oregon Public House is a great place to grab a beer. A century-old brick facade makes way to a pub that is rumored to have been a speakeasy during prohibition. The pub is actually licensed as a brewpub, and recently released its own IPA, in addition to keeping a well-curated list of a dozen microbrews on tap, along with a full menu of Northwest pub-style fare. There is more than 2,000 square foot of eating space and, keeping with the neighborhood vibe, the pub is family-friendly.
Want to get involved? There are plenty of ways, from volunteerings, to becoming a “founder” donor (free beer for life!), to buying a round for the house (and for a good cause). For more details, check out their website.