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OKRA Charity Bar Opens for Good Tomorrow

Technically, the OKRA Charity Bar had its debut this past Sunday, when it opened its doors to the public for the first time since its open house in August. (Has it really been that long?)

But then, because of Christmas and all, Charity Bar was closed yesterday and today. But tomorrow, it'll be back open for good starting at 3 p.m. and will remain open until 2 a.m. Every. Single. Day. Of the week.

That's right: Charity Bar -- like Warren's Inn, its neighbor around the block -- will be open until 2 a.m. seven days a week.

"I think bars have a responsibility to people in the neighborhood to be consistent," said OKRA founder and Charity Bar owner Bobby Heugel on the phone last week. Heugel himself has moved into downtown, just a stone's throw away from Charity Bar, and is intent on building a community there at Travis and Congress.

As for the selection of booze at the bar, Heugel says: "We're trying to put a little face of everybody into the bar program," since Charity Bar is run by an "administration" of industry personnel that includes folks from Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Hay Merchant, Oxheart, The Pass & Provisions, Blacksmith, Underbelly, Poison Girl, Black Hole Coffee Bar, The Modular, Paulie's, Big Star Bar, Grand Prize Bar, Antidote Coffee and Revival Market. (In case you weren't counting, that's three coffee shops, four restaurants, four cocktail bars, a grocery store and a craft beer bar.)

To that end, Heugel says, there will be "craft beer, cheap beer, just a pretty wide selection of beers once we get going." And as for cocktails, expect a lineup of 20 classics made with fresh ingredients.

"We'll try to cover all the bases and make sure when someone comes in they're happy," Heugel says."

And as a reminder, Charity Bar isn't just a name. Starting on January 1, Heugel and crew will announce the four nominees for that month's charity beneficiary. Patrons at the bar will receive a token for every drink they order, and will use that token to vote for the charity of their choice (a program that's been successfully employed at thrift clothing store Buffalo Exchange for years). At the end of each month, the tokens will be tallied and the charity with the most will receive 100 percent of the bar's proceeds.

Right now, the OKRA administration is still shuffling through the landslide of applications and e-mails they received when the Charity Bar's mission was first announced. How many applications?

"Honestly I don't know," says Heugel. "It's crazy."

"Before we put the application form on the website we got over 1,000 emails from Houston charities. We tried to get back to a lot of people who emailed us and we're hoping that word gets out better."

That better way is for charities to submit their applications directly to the Charity Bar via its website. While the January charities have all but been decided, a new slate of four charities will be up for consideration in February.

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While the Charity Bar model may not be unique to the nation -- places such as Cause: The PhilanthroPub in Washington, D.C., and the Oregon Public House in Portland plan similar concepts -- it's certainly unique to Houston. And Heugel couldn't be happier.

"I'm excited about being downtown," says Heugel. "Something special is going to happen."

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