Shebeen Bar - doing good while having a good time

One of fun things about Melbourne's laneway cafe scene is the unexpected places people may encounter on a random stroll. On Manchester Lane, a cheerful-looking bar called Shebeen pops out between concrete buildings to beckon passers-by to have a drink and do some social good at the same time.

The first of its kind in Australia, Shebeen is a non-profit "philanthropub" where the profits are given to community programs in developing countries.  The "Afro/Asian/Mexican-style" bar was started by entrepreneurs Simon Griffiths and Zanna McComish after a stint as volunteer aid workers in Africa.  For Simon, it was also about using business - not charity - to fund initiatives being run by development aid organisations. 

The business model behind Shebeen is simple.  When a customer buys a drink, the profit goes to a development program in the country that the drink originated from.  For example, buying a Beer Lao will contribute to Digital Divide Data, which provides tertiary scholarships to disadvantaged youth in Laos, Cambodia and Kenya. Profits from the sale of Chilean wine will support Root Capital, a non-profit social investment fund that provides financial and business development assistance to agricultural businesses in rural Africa and Latin America. 

The profits are tallied twice a year and distributed among the community programs on Shebeen's roster.  This means that customer choices determine how profits are distributed.  After opening in Manchester Lane in February 2013, Shebeen's first donation of $12,000 was made in June 2013.

The name "Shebeen" originally referred to South African speakeasies that were established around black African communities, since only white people could enter licensed pubs and bars. In addition to providing entertainment, shebeens acted as gathering places for the local community, political activists and artists.  As befits its original namesake, Shebeen is located on the site of the former Manchester Lane Jazz Club. 

Shebeen, 36 Manchester Lane Melbourne


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