Cheers to charity

A mobile bar pours its profits into good causes

Founders of Tzedek Bar521 (photo credit: Ben Goldman)
Founders of Tzedek Bar521
(photo credit: Ben Goldman)
A new initiative called Tzedek Bar aims to be the first nonprofit bar in Jerusalem, giving young people the chance to raise money while raising their glasses. The project was founded by brother-sister duo Nico and Fanny Katz, both new immigrants from Switzerland, along with Ada Broussard, who moved to Israel from Louisiana. Nico, who is 27 years old and studying nonprofit management at the Hebrew University, first conceived of the idea as a way to kill two birds with one stone.
“Young people and students say they don’t have time or money to give to charity,” Nico says, “but they still find time to go out and have a drink. So the idea was to use this money they are going to spend anyway on drinks and give them a chance to give it away to tzedaka and finance more local charities in Jerusalem.”
Though the idea would be a first in Jerusalem, there are international models that have preceded it, says Nico, and which have helped him and his partners in conceiving the nonprofit. The Oregon Public House, based in Portland, Oregon, advertises itself as “the world’s first nonprofit pub,” and launched just a few months ago amid much fanfare. According to its website, it was able to raise over $2,000 in its first two weeks alone. Now the idea is catching on around the world, with nonprofit bars opening in Australia, San Francisco and Houston. If all goes well, Nico and his team hope to bring the model to Jerusalem too, with a few differences.
One of the main differences is that Tzedek Bar currently operates as a “mobile bar.” Because they don’t have a permanent location, they travel to various events and team with other Jerusalem organizations to sell their wares. But even without a home base, they have already experienced early success. Last month, Tzedek Bar collaborated with the Ginot Ha’ir community center and the Jerusalem Village organization to bring the concept to a Friday night Shabbat dinner. Tickets to the event costing NIS 60 per person were sold out well in advance to over 200 people, and participants stayed well into the night.
The money raised by the event will be distributed to three Jerusalem-based charities, and donors were able to choose which ones their money will go to.
This ability to select the charity to which the money is allocated is integral to the concept, says Nico, as one of the main purposes of Tzedek Bar is to get young people thinking about the capital’s various charities.
“Allowing them to choose raises awareness about [the charities] in Jerusalem,” he says.
This focus is part of a larger effort to incorporate the city into all stages of their business model, from purchasing local fruits from the Mahaneh Yehuda market for use in sangria, to selling the local craft beer Shapira.
“We love Jerusalem,” Fanny says, “and we want to develop the nightlife here and also get people more involved [in charity]. So it was more logical for us to open up in Jerusalem rather than in a place like Tel Aviv.”
While Tzedek is currently a mobile bar, the team does express the desire to one day have a permanent location. To that end, they have begun the process of completing the necessary requirements to obtain a liquor license. “Right now we are mobile, so we go from event to event and partner with people who have a liquor license, but we’d also like to have a base.
“We believe that if given the choice between two bars, people will choose the one where money goes to charity.” •