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'We're here to support each other': Philanthropic businesses try to stay afloat

A handful of restaurants closing their doors are also losing the opportunity to donate to the local nonprofits they support as benefit corporations.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Local restaurants are all hurting. Many of them have been forced to close and lay off employees because of COVID-19. A handful of those restaurants are also losing the opportunity to donate to the local nonprofits they support as benefit corporations. The Oregon Public House on Northeast Dekum Street. is one of them.

“We’re Portland's ‘philanthro-pub,’” said The Oregon Public House volunteer board chair, Ryan Saari.

The Oregon Public House donates a portion of every sale to local nonprofit partners. Over the last seven years, they've donated more than $210,000. Customers pick which charity their donation will go to when they order. The Oregon Public House is also an event center that hosts fundraisers for nonprofits.
“Our business model is basically everything we make we donate back to our nonprofit charity partners,” said Saari. “Then we have our paid staff that actually run our pub, restaurant and event center.”

Saari said it all makes the new reality of COVID-19 restrictions and closures all the more bleak.

“We've been just dark for the last week along with pretty much every other pub and restaurant in the city,” said Saari. “The reality of not having a job here for a month is very scary.”

Saari hoped to keep a handful of paid staff working during the crisis to plan future events for nonprofit groups, but said it would be a challenge.

“We have literally zero revenue coming in right now… we just started a GoFundMe for the first time which is challenging,” said Saari. “We have been an organization for almost seven years that gives out. Now we're asking people give in.”

In the Lloyd district, another philanthropic business is empty— Green Bridge Coffee on Northeast Holladay. Owner Joel Stenberg donates 10% of his sales to local nonprofits that customers also get to select from.

“If we can create the giveback aspect, that donation piece, the customers are totally floored by it,” said Stenberg.

Right now 90% of Stenberg’s customers are gone while they work from home. Stenberg just temporarily laid off his four employees and said they're all hurting right now, 

“Realizing for the foreseeable future, there will be no jobs.”

To offset his losses, Stenberg opened an online store. He's selling coffee beans, gift cards and merchandise which he'll deliver or mail to customers. He hoped everyone able to support their local businesses would try to.

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“Look to see if there's a unique way you can still be a customer,” encouraged Stenberg. “Every purchase every single day may not seem like a lot to each consumer, but to the business owner it is such a big difference.”

Saari said he believes Portlanders will come through for those who need it, even now.

“What I've loved about this city is that we care about each other,” said Saari. “We're here to support each other.”

RELATED: 'We can be there for them': North Portland neighbors meet, socialize at a distance

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