Beer Hunting: Meet the Couple Planning Seattle’s Very Own Nonprofit Pub

Scheduled for an October opening, the Center Public House will give us all a place to ‘drink philanthropically.’

Scott Wetzel met his future wife, Loni, playing in a band with her brother. Its name? The Melissa Joan Heart Attack (I’m so glad I asked!). The two courted and eventually wed, and have been together more than 12 years. Now they are beginning a new venture: Center Public House, a 1,000-square-foot bar whose mission is to “drink philanthropically.”

Scott, a graphic designer by trade, and Loni, who works at Providence Hospital in Everett but has years of food-service experience, hope their nonprofit, which will open its doors in Snohomish likely in October, will generate tens of thousands of dollars for charities working with substance abuse and families in need.

“The mission is to have a beer and change the world,” says Scott confidently, sitting in a Ravenna neighborhood bar.

Here’s how it will work: Before leaving, a customer will be asked what charity he or she wants to donate to, and a portion of his or her tab will go there. Instead of keeping the profit made after food and labor costs, Scott and Loni will donate it.

The model for the bar, the first of its kind in Washington, is Portland’s Oregon Public House, the world’s first nonprofit pub. “Our friend runs it,” says Loni. “He’s really taken us under his wing, showing us the ropes in terms of funds coming in, the legal stuff, hiring.”

Scott and Loni also hope to host an industry dinner for food-service workers at their new bar “maybe once a quarter or once a month—and it’s free whether you work at McDonald’s or the front of the house at a fancy place in Seattle.”

The Center Public House will serve only Washington beer and cider; the menu staple, Scott and Loni say, will be tapas. The place will be kid-friendly and feature housemade craft sodas. In addition, there will be promotions; for example, if you donate $2,500 to the Pub’s mission, you’ll get a free beer a day for the rest of your life.

“A guy I know says, ‘You’re like the Bernie Sanders of bars,’ ” Scott says, laughing. “We can make this happen if everybody gets behind it. Right now we’re still raising money and working out the logistics. We didn’t want to take out loans because we didn’t want to be paying anything to big banks.”

And all this, it seems, is thanks to a little band called The Melissa Joan Heart Attack. “I lived with my brother,” says Loni, “and he told me to stay away from Scott. But I’m stubborn, so I thought: I’m gonna marry him.”

Cheers to that!

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