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Cause “philanthropub”—the restaurant and bar that aimed to give all its profits to charity—has closed. Co-founder Nick Vilelle explains that the restaurant wasn’t making any profits, which meant no contributions to charity, and it wasn’t worth keeping the place open if it couldn’t achieve its mission.
“It’s a tough industry, and we knew that going in,” Vilelle says. “It’s a multitude of factors. Maybe some of it had to do with where we were, or how we did things.”
From the beginning, Cause had been losing money. In August, Vilelle and co-founder Raj Ratwani released financial information for the first quarter of the year, which revealed the restaurant lost nearly $9,000. Nonetheless, the business still gave four nonprofits $8,445 raised through small direct donations and sponsored events. Cause also closed temporarily in August to repair its air-conditioning unit and electrical system. The restaurant took to crowd-funding site Indiegogo to try to raise $11,000 for an overhaul, but ultimately raise a little more than $1,000, with the rest of the repair money coming from investors.
Still, Vilelle doesn’t think that Cause’s closure means that the profits-for-charity concept can’t work. “I think we just didn’t come up with the right combination to make the model work here,” he says.
But general manager Eric King says the concept may have played some role. “I’ve seen wacky concepts work. Sometimes, the wackier the better,” he says. “But I think the concept is responsible in that it robbed the restaurant of an identity.”
Cause investors also own the building at 1926 9th St. NW. Vilelle says they’re still trying to figure out what to do with it. “Everything’s pretty fresh right now,” he says.
Read the restaurant’s message from the website below:
It is with deep sadness that we report that CAUSE is closed for business. What started as an idea for a fun new way to help others has unfortunately not been able to achieve its purpose. Despite a great response from people around the country, CAUSE has not been able to achieve regular profitability, and thus not been able to generate the donations that were the reason for starting the restaurant. It is certainly a huge disappointment to us, as we truly believe in the idea but a number of factors have kept us from reaching our goals. We knew going in that it was a very difficult industry, but we hoped that the mission behind CAUSE would help carry us to success. We would like to thank our great team and the entire community that has been very supportive in this endeavor.
While CAUSE will no longer be offering philanthropic pints, people interested in this form of business can follow OKRA in Houston and The Oregon Public House in Portland that are operating under similar business models.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery