Followers of this blog may remember that Thebeerchaser’s drinking companions at the last bar reviewed – Brannon’s Pub and Brewery – included five tax attorneys. And these individuals are not only lawyers, but each went back after law school and also earned their LLM or Masters Degree in Law with a focus on tax.
My lack of trepidation at having this group as drinking buddies emanated from a prior bar visit to the Oregon Public House with one of them – Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt lawyer, Dan Eller. We were joined by Merrill Lynch financial advisor, Mike Jones, and it was a very enjoyable evening.
The Oregon Public House (OPH) bills itself as the “Nation’s First Non-profit Pub” – although similar bars in Houston and Washington DC opened a little before it. Founded with the contributions and sweat equity of volunteers – many of which were members of the Oregon Community, a church led by pastor Ryan Saari, who is an OPH Board member.
The stated mission is as follows:
“To integrate this vision of pub with benevolent outreach, we have relationships with a number of non-profit organizations to which our pub will donate 100% of net profits. The customer will purchase their food and/or beverage, and then have a chance to choose where they wish their individual proceeds go from a short list of local charities.”
OPH is not spacious – five booths, a few tables and a nice bar – nothing special, but kind of quaint, and it’s difficult to quarrel with their vision. If you read to the end of this post, however, you will find some interesting (well, admittedly – only to a few people) nuances on the issue of “non-profit bar.”
Besides the traditional PBR Tall Boy, they have on tap eleven rotating beers and one cider – a nice selection of NW brews. Our party had Three Creeks (Sisters Oregon) Stonefly Rye, Elysian (Seattle) Bi-Frost Winter Pale Ale, a Worthy (Bend) Lights Out Stout and the OPH Do Gooder – the only beer that they brew themselves.
The overhead stays low by requiring patrons to order at the bar rather than being served and then bus their own dishes – not a problem. The food, for the most part, is standard pub faire although we were impressed with the “specials” on the menu that night which included a duck patty melt, hearty corn chowder and Hungarian goulash.
When we asked the bartender, Cindy – an employee of OPH since its inception in 2013 – what distinguished the bar from others, she stated without hesitation, “Besides our overall mission, our Reuben was voted number 4 in Oregon Business Magazine’s ‘Top-five Reubens’ category.” This could not be verified, but it did compare favorably with The Goose Hollow Inn’s famous Reuben and all three of us devoured ours.
One other distinguishing factor was their children’s play area – more of a symbolic than substantive gesture to indicate it is a family-oriented venue. It was pretty meager although it’s one of few bars in Portland with one – County Cork is another.
While we were having our first beer, I made the mistake of asking Dan a question to clarify the tax status of the OPH. He immediately responded (with some passion):
“Remember, a non-profit bar is not the same thing as a tax-exempt bar or a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.”
I hadn’t really thought that I could get a tax deduction for our beers, but Dan explained, “OPH is a non-profit corporation that is not tax-exempt.” – kind of like a credit union. Based on what he had been able to learn about OPH, Dan believed that it plowed back its net income or profits into charitable organizations.
However, if the amount given exceeded 10% of OPH’s taxable income, that would have presented what Dan described (as we were on our second beer) as “fascinating tax issues re. non-deductible expenses.”
About this time, I looked at Mike – an MBA, so no stranger to financial concepts – and he appeared to be listening; however, I saw the notes he was making and he had scribbled, “Dale Nerl,” “Ned Erlal” and “Len Radle”,” – all anagrams of Dan Eller’s name. In my mind, I was picturing Dan trying to convey this same concept to a coed on a date when he was an undergraduate at UCLA……
The bottom line is OPH has given a significant amount to Oregon charities since their May 2013 opening in the historical building that dates back to 1909 when it was an Odd Fellows Lodge. When we were there in January, the accumulated amount was $39,372 and that figure has increased to approximately $43,000.
As one reads about some of the big corporations acquiring breweries and pubs, it’s refreshing to hear about an idealistic and action-oriented group, who brought their vision to fruition and have created a great community gathering place.
Each time you order a drink or food, you cast a vote for one of the six charities they currently support:
Oregon Humane Society P:EAR Pink Boots Society
Playworks Portland Fruit Tree Project X-RAY F.M.
To summarize, it might be appropriate to quote a recent (February, 2015) Yelp review:
“Great food, excellent service, and a fantastic mission.”
Oregon Public House 700 NE Dekum Street