Cause Bar and Restaurant, The Philanthropub, Coming to 1926 9th St, NW in Old La Carbonara Space

Their Website says:

Welcome to Cause Bar and Restaurant, where giving has never been so easy. Cause is a bar like you’ve never seen before. We like to call it a PhilanthroPub.

Here is how it works:

Step 1: You come to Cause; eat, drink, and be merry

Step 2: Cause pays its staff, covers all operating costs

Step 3: Cause takes ALL of the remaining profits, and gives them to pre-vetted nonprofit organizations

Starting in April, come in, have a good time, all for a good Cause!

You can find more background info about the charitable aspect here. You can see their food menu here and you’ll soon be able to see the drink menu here. The executive chef is Adam Stein formerly of Queen Vic.

Like the idea of a Philanthropub?

59 Comment

  • nice marketing angle. draw customer by making them feel like they are “doing good” by patronizing your place. then set the salaries of staff, especially senior management, well above market rates. you take home more than it would otherwise. typical ngo approach.

    • Agree with you. The only way we would know what the real story is is if we reviewed the books and that is way too much work if you just want a beer. It’s like those kids that text a number to find out if their fish is sustainably sourced… Therefore I will continue going to only the cheapest happy hours I find.

      • Hey Guys– this is Raj from CauseDC.

        We completely understand your skepticism and even encourage it. Here are a couple of things we are doing:
        1. ALL salaries will be posted for customers to easily review so that you can see what people are making and where the money is going. Transparency is our goal. You can review this information in as much, or little detail as you want.
        2. Senior management issue: this idea started because of our frustration with senior management/executives at some non-profits taking 100K plus salaries. We will not be doing this and, again, you can review salaries etc. How is this possible? We are not doing this for the money…many of us have other full-time jobs.
        3. Patron’s will be able to see how much money we are giving to different charitable organizations and patrons will be able to see what the charitable organizations are doing with that money.
        4. Beer/food prices…we are going to be competitive or else we are going to be out of business.

        I encourage you review the FAQ on our website ( and please email with questions/concerns.

        Again, we like skeptics and hope that you will give us a chance.

        • Raj-
          Your thoughtful response makes me optimistic that the rest of this concept will be equally thoughtful. Can’t wait to try it out!

        • the attitude is commendable, but it doesn’t obscure the nakedness of this marketing ploy. seldom do restaurants cover costs in their first months of operation, and fewer turn a profit. yours is no exception. but because of your “support” for charitable organizations, you have a better chance of making it. there is no downside risk; you will draw more patrons than would otherwise be the case and have a better chance of breaking even, which is the real challenge facing your business. you sacrifice nothing yourself, decrease the possibility of taking a loss, while charitable organizations are not guaranteed a penny (and unlikely to receive anything in the short term).

          it would be different if you actually budgeted a certain amount of your overhead towards charity, but that would require changing the business model drastically.

          • Those are all good points. The restaurant/bar business is very difficult, as you already know. One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the initial start-up costs– often times you dig yourself into a big financial hole and then have to pay for it in the long run.

            Because of the generosity of many of our friends (please see the “supporters” link under about us on the webpage), we have been able to drastically limit our start-up costs. Thus, once we open we will have fewer debts to pay compared to other restaurants/bars.

            Clearly, there is still risk, but because of our transparency patrons will see where their money is going. We hope to have the charities we are featuring up soon and after a few months we hope to have the amounts that we have donated made public. It is going to take sometime to get this model working…we hope you will give us a shot.

        • Not sure of the need to bash the salaries of non-profit execs-many have devoted their lives to that sector and I would say that someone running a successful non-profit with a multi-million dollar budget deserves to get paid well. Better to pay someone 100k for a stellar job than 60k for a mediocre one.
          This public attitude that non-profit workers should be expected to live on peanuts is frustrating, passion and belief in a cause doesn’t put food on the table. As you say, you have other jobs (in the well-paying defense sector in your case), the vast majority of non-profit workers do not. Disappointing to see you bashing people who do the hard work at the charities that you claim to wish to support.

          • My sincere apologies…I should have selected my words more carefully. What I meant is that there is a very small segment of people that draw exorbitant salaries and this can be frustrating. You are absolutely right, there are very effective hard-working folks that deserve to be paid well.

            My point was simply that we understand people’s concerns over salaries and we want to make sure people understand that we are not trying to set-up a gimmick or scheme where we mislead patrons.

          • Raj- somebody is always going to take offense to anything you say. We understand what you mean and we can’t wait to support your idea. Go Cause!

          • thank you for saying this!!!

  • i suppose trying to call the ngo crowds but really little appeal. very boring menu.

  • If Stein’s work at Queen Vic is any indication, the food should be pretty damn good.

  • Hello guys, I just started, literally yesterday, as Chef for Cause and for The Light Horse. The menu is a place holder and will be changing, it wont be boring, I promise. As for a gimmick, one might find the idea of Cause silly, but I can assure you that the ownership, who have donated much of their working lives to non profits and aid organizations take the idea very seriously. Hopefully we can surprise you on a few fronts. Cheers!

    • I like three veggie burger options! i recommend keeping those…the flatbreads look creative, too.

      • Yes, another vote for keeping multiple veggie burger options!

        • Crowd-sourced menu! I’m sure the chef will love that. Anyway, I always welcome vegetarian options that are creative and tasty and don’t assume that vegetarians *love* the taste of squash and brown rice.

        • +10! So great to have more than one veggie burger choice, and I appreciate when veggie burgers are cheaper than beef burgers, which is as it should be.

  • A solid, rotating craft beer selection will get me in the door.

  • Why is everyone here so cynical? I love the concept and look forward to seeing the final menu. Best of luck, guys!

  • I think this sounds awesome. It’s about time that waitstaff got paid better on the front end.

  • Yeah, I don’t get the cynicism either. What’s wrong with this idea? If I owned a bar I’d want to profit from it, but more power to them for donating to charity. Not sure how that’s even a gimmick provided that they truly donate all profits.

  • I like this idea and think the menu looks good, although not particularly exciting. I’m luke warm on burgers. Ultimately, this venture will sink or swim based on how good of a restaurant it is, not what kind of charities they’re supporting.

    I really appreciate the comments/rebuttal from the chef. Compare that with the icy silence from the Snitcheye people.

  • I want to open a Fat Albert themed club and call it the Coz Bar.

  • I like the idea.

    However, I wonder how they’re going to handle the inevitable questions about which charities they’re supporting. No matter who gets the money, someone will be turned off. “I don’t want my money going to Planned Parenthood!” … or Catholic Charities, or the homeless, or overseas… You get the point. And that will in turn affect the bottom line and eventually, given how many restaurants shutter after just a few months, possibly the ability to keep the place running.

    • This is a great comment. Our current plan is to have 3-5 charitable organizations featured every few months. The organizations will range from being local to global and will be diverse in their causes.

      Patrons will be able to indicate where they want their money to go. This will be a simple process where people indicate a percentage at the bottom of their bill. Our intent is not to make this a complicated process, after all, we hope you come visit to enjoy yourself and relax. \

      We also encourage patrons to tell us what charities they would like to see featured in Cause.

      • I love this concept and think you could do so many things with it, both in terms of generating resources for organizations doing great work and getting people engaged in philanthropy!

        Have you considered building relationships with membership groups like YNPNdc or organizations like the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region to get networked into regional philanthropy efforts? Or focusing on specific issues for a certain timeframe (like women’s human rights issues in March tied to International Women’s Day)? Existing programs like Whole Foods 5% days might also have some useful tools that you could borrow, particularly their application format for organizations who’d like to become a partner.

        Exciting idea and I’m psyched to see the end result!

      • A system I’ve seen used elsewhere:

        Set up a box near the door labeled with each organization and a brief description of their work. Give each patron a token with their check which they then put in the box for the organization of their choice. Apportion the profits based on the percentage of votes the organization gets. Simple and easy.

        • I want to say that I’ve seen that system used as the bring-your-own-bag incentive at a local Whole Foods — Alexandria, maybe? It’s worked pretty well at several co-op groceries I’ve been to.

          Speaking of co-ops, the Riverwest Public House in Milwaukee was set up not only as a neighborhood gathering space, but also to spin off revenue that would fund other co-op businesses within the neighborhood. It’s the original crowd-sourcing: if the neighborhood wants a business, well, we’ll get together and open one ourselves.

  • I think this is an interesting idea. Of course, a high level of transparency is essential (as it is with all charities). If the owners do it the right way, it could be a benefit to the community.

  • I actually think the menu sounds really good, and is pretty varied!

  • Cool idea – and excited for the menu.
    Would love it if they embraced the pay what you want pricing like some coffee shops that embrace this NGO-business plan model.

  • I think that it sounds like a good idea…a new angle on the bar scene. I’m definitely willing to give it a try!

  • I’m actually more interested in knowing if they will be high-road employers. Too many restaurants treat their staff like complete crap: stealing tips from wait staff, not following the tipped credit minimum wage law, forcing wait staff to pay for those who dine and dash (that’s illegal in every state, but restaurants everywhere force their staff to do this), not allowing for paid sick days or earned vacation time, discrimination between front of house and back of house, failing to pay overtime, misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees, etc.

    A real test for them: will they offer their staff earned paid sick days?

    Charity starts at home — I’ll want to hear what their staff thinks about working conditions before the pilanthropub concept would be a draw for me.

    • Our goal is to treat all employees just as we would want to be treated. I had my days of working in crappy conditions and I know what it is like to be mistreated in every possible way. We are going to do our best to provide decent benefits to all employees. Of course, the proof is in the pudding.

  • Nice. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  • Raj-do you mind me asking how you’re incorporated? Are you guys a c3? Or an LLC/S corp?

    I don’t have any problem with people using charitable donations as a tax hedge (do it myself), just curious if it’s that or this is actually a nonprofit in of itself.

    • I am happy to provide some info on this. We are currently formed as a standard LLC. We wanted to form as a non-profit, but there are WAY too many complications given that we are selling alcohol on a daily basis.

      Our intent is to become a benefit corporation (B corp), but we need to be in operation for a year or so before we can actually have this status. We will be working towards this as quickly as possible.

      • Raj – It’d also be great if you worked to employ folks in the district with little/no skills and train them so they can work at Cause or other restaurants aroudn the district.

  • What’s with this new flatbreads obsession in DC? I know–they’re easy to make and have a high profit margin. But seriously–how about something new and unique that I can’t get at a gazillion other places within a ten-block radius?

  • Love love love this idea, and kudos to the owners. I will definitely check it out and I wish you the best of luck!! I also appreciate your responsiveness on this thread – I consider it a testament to your involvement in the community and your commitment to transparency.

    (PoP – this reminds me of that Indian restaurant I think you posted about a long time ago – the one where you only pay what you can and it’s paid forward to the next customer. Anyone know if that’s still around or did the concept not pick up? Sorry to highjack the thread with this question).

  • Interesting idea and hope it works out. I couldn’t help but notice that the flatbreads and hamburger buns are described as gluten free. Does that mean all of them are or there is a GF option? Either way, as someone who can’t eat gluten, it sounds good to me!

  • Agree this sounds like a great idea and is at least worthy of support if managed honestly. Hope to see some solid vegan options on the menu.

  • This is awesome. Stop being negative. Funny thing is I was just thinking of this business model for a bar a few days ago, what do you know. Of course we will all be weary coming across a business model for a pub like this. However, ask yourself, what are you doing for people all throughout the world that have basic needs. Are you coughing up money from each of your paychecks, are you coughing up money from each of your business transactions. Not likely. We can waste hundreds of dollars on unnecessary vanity. We all are vain as human beings and cannot always be 100% pure at heart with our intentions of giving to a cause, because , of course we wan to make some money, who doesn’t. This model and this cause and this restaurant maybe a catalyst for other for profit companies to incorporate a giving model. It’s a beautiful thing when it’s actually done and the companies are transparent. It maybe a catalyst for individuals in general to stop being self absorbed and greedy. Congratulations Raj and Adam for making this happen. I’ll be there.

  • As a neighbor, this is great news! If a night out benefits charity then all the better.

  • Back in the day I used to frequent a spot in NYC called The Place that had a similar concept. I think they also let their customers increase their donations (tack on an amount like you would a tip) at the end of the meal. Sounds like a great idea. I, for one, can’t wait to see how their veggie burgers turn out, and the Green Death flatbread sounds intriguing.

  • Raj-please don’t be discouraged by these Negative Nancys (it doesn’t sound like you are). Why do so many people here always assume the worst right out of the gate? I think the menu looks tasty, accesible, and affordable (something DC definitely needs more of) and I would be a happy patron even if there was no philanthropic angle. I happen to work at a non-profit (for peanuts) and I wonder if there’s a way to get us on the list for consideration…

  • I like this idea, but would caution the owners to be careful in marketing this concept. I agree with the earlier posters who said that the restaurant will sink or swim on the quality of food (ok, and service) — the stuff that restaurants need to do. If the restaurant gets preachy or puts a cultural mission ahead of a culinary/customer service one, it will not survive.

    Many years ago I went to a restaurant/diner on Connecticut called Food for Thought that really blew it. The food was healthy, sustainable, vegan, and… disgusting. The entertainers would panhandle customers while they ate. It was a bad night out both times I went. I never went back.

    I think Andy Shallal has the formula down right: Create a good experience, destination, and promote the added bonus that your brand is progressive and contributes to the community, helps society, whatever. But promote selectively to the customers who appreciate that angle and otherwise focus on the dining experience.

    The Saloon is another good example. You know that your beer money is probably helping build some schools for poor people in Guatemala or some shit like that, which is nice, but you’re there for the chance to drink good beer in a place where you’ll see your neighbors and friends (where everybody knows your name). They sell naming rights to bricks, but they actually screen donors! You have to be a regular or something to get an indoor brick.

    Good luck, Cause Bar!

    • we have different views. i thought the old Food for Thought was a fantastic place. it had fun and unusual items. cheap pitchers of beer. great crowd. and good music. the entertainment that “panhandled” was just passing the hat to be paid. used to be a very very common thing. i was sad when it closed. one of the few decent hangouts in that part of town. i also love the saloon.

      i want to like bus boys but the 15 times or so i’ve been the food was very bland and a few times the servers would forget my tables order. the last time i went the waitress came back 3 times to take our order. it is a comfy place and their speakers and events are great though.
      and really Andy Shallal is far more outspoken and in your face about politics than Commie or Bob Ferrando.

  • a great idea to show that people today can go out and have a good time while at the same time show geniune concern for others in the world that are not quite a fortunate.

  • A little late to the game here…just read about this. I think it’s a great idea and promise you the next time I visit DC I will pay at least one visit. Regardless if its a marketing ploy or just a great vision, the benefits are going to be shared amongst employees and nonprofits in the community. I could only wish more businesses did the same!

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