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Charity is the main ingredient of Houston’s Angel Share Bar

A new bar gives patrons a chance to support local charities.

Mary Ellen Angel knows how to mix a Southside. A bestselling cocktail at Angel Share, her welcoming downtown Houston pub, is a mix of gin, lime juice, and mint with a splash of simple syrup. The drink, which costs $12, is more than just a well-balanced, citrusy-sweet liquor burst. It also contributes to the support of a local charity.

Customers receive a ticket and the opportunity to vote for one of four rotating 501(c)3 charity for every drink or food purchased at Angel Share. At the end of the month, the charity with the most tickets receives the bar’s income, minus operating costs.

The Houston Area Women’s Center was named November’s winner, based on votes cast in October; Angel gave the group with a check for $10,002. The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Resiliency, whose purpose is to educate girls and women about physical, emotional, and financial health, received a check for $10,212 in October.

We have outreach to over 12,000 girls and women in non-Covid times, says Linda Rhodes, the executive director of the Women’s Fund. You can imagine: This is a very welcome gift.

After winning in September, Champions for Children, which supports the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, received $10,611.

The money means a huge opportunity for us to keep going, says Tatum Martens, its president. It’s also recognition. Someone who gets a drink before an Astros game has an opportunity to learn about us and get involved.

Angel Share isn’t the first philanthropic activity on Congress Street, right off Market Square Park. It’s a fresh incarnation of Okra Charity Saloon, a bar that opened in December 2012 and gave out more than $1.3 million using a similar method. Angel was the bar’s long-time general manager until the pandemic forced it to close in March 2020.

The owners, who included venerable bartender Bobby Heugel, sold it to her for $10.

I could have made it any kind of bar, she says. But if someone sells you a bar for $10, you have to make it a charity bar.

She opened Angel Share in June 2021, naming it after the fractionbit of distilled spirits that evaporates after aging in wooden casks. (Of course, it’s a play on her name.) She upgraded the décor with artwork honoring Dolly Parton, a musician with “a great heart,” according to her.

As Okra, the bar was known for writing larger payments, including a $45,000 check to Houston Habitat for Humanity in 2013. Angel claims that business is gradually improving, but it is still not back to pre-pandemic levels. She’s promoting female-oriented charities in part because of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits abortion after six weeks, which went into effect in September 2021.

We tended to stay away from political issues at Okra, Angel says. I feel strongly here.

Angel has carried on the tradition of serving well-made cocktails, such as Old Fashioneds, nitro espresso martinis, and a broad selection of bourbons and whiskeys. The culinary menu includes beef jerky, buffalo chicken wraps, and housemade potato chips with sour cream ranch. Angel intends to expand its menu, including brunch service, in order to increase check averages. She’s also thinking about expansion.

I’ve been hearing from people in other cities, like Austin and New Orleans, she says. They ask, ‘How do I start a charity bar?’

Rhodes of the Women’s Fund says her team gathered at Angel Share for weekly happy hours to win the October charity round, which helped spread the word to other patrons. About 15 members from the fund showed up at the bar for the check presentation event in November and turned it into a celebration.

We had a chance to vote for the next round of winners, Rhodes says. You feel inspired to vote, and we did.

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