Philanthropist Angel revives Houston’s charity bar
By Shaheryar Khan
“You can only control yourself.” With all the bad news and tragedy in the world today, people can overcome these problems by helping others and giving a hand. This is the philosophy of Mary Ellen Angel, the owner of Angel Share HTX, Houston’s charity bar.
Formerly known as Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, or OKRA for short, it was a collaborative project of 26 restaurants and bars that are all iconic Houstonian establishments. Some notable bars and restaurants included Poison Girl, Grand Prize, and Anvil.
OKRA was later sold to Angel, who was one of the original general managers of the bar. She changed the name to Angel Share HTX.
“New name; same concept: Drink for a cause!”
The name of the bar is a homage to the new owners’ last name “Angel” and the industry term of “angel’s share,” which is when whiskey is distilled and a portion of it is evaporated in the air.
Originally from Magnolia, Texas, Angel recalls that her perception of the world was limited to the borders of Montgomery County. After she graduated from high school, she moved to Austin, Texas and met a person who said they just got back from a country called Croatia.
From that point on, Angel decided to work and set a goal to travel as much as she could, and her first destination was London.
“Travelling helps open people’s horizons,” Angel said as she explains her reasoning to travel. Once she started to explore different places around the world and was introduced to different cultures and traditions, she started to question her own perspective.
While working at Benjy’s Restaurant here in Houston, Angel came across Bobby Heugel, who would later become owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Better Luck Tomorrow, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, The Nightingale Room, and OKRA.
Huegel offered Angel the general manager position at OKRA and she takes a leap of faith and accepts Huegel’s offer, becoming one of the founding members.
After almost a decade of operating under OKRA Charity Saloon, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Huegel and the other owners needed to tend to their other businesses, passing the torch to Angel, who renamed the charity bar, Angel Share HTX.
With every drink or food purchase, a customer receives a ticket to vote for one of the four Houston-based charities that are nominated for the month. After the bar pays their rent and employees, and saves money for safety funds, all the remaining proceeds go to the charity with the most votes at the end of the month.
Since Angel’s start in 2013, when the bar was still OKRA, she has been responsible for contributing over $1.3 million towards local charities in Houston. Apart from giving back to the community and making a positive difference, their drinks and food menu is not something to rule out.
They offer amazing cocktails to choose from as well as high quality food to accompany their drinks. A special “charity menu” lists products from brands that support their mission.
The bar staff are very friendly and take the time to get to know customers. Overall, they make sure everyone has a great time.
Angel makes sure that she takes care of the people that work at the bar. All employees are paid livable wages and receive health insurance.
Angel wants to emphasize that “this is still OKRA,” and that they are “still a charity bar.” She is often asked by people if she makes a lot of income running a charity bar and her reply is: “how much money do you need?”
Helping others and hospitality in general is something Angel craves in her daily life.
“One person can’t do it, we have to do it collectively,” she stressed as she continues to work with many amazing non-profits to raise awareness for their respective causes.
“In this world we live in, why not spread some joy and take care of one another? We’re all we’ve got.”
Angel Share HTX is located on 924 Congress St. and is open Sunday to Wednesday: 4 p.m.–12 a.m.; and Thursday to Saturday: 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
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