Story By Dan Thompson | Article Provided by Coeur d’Alene Living Local
In early August, at what is now a monthly check-giving ceremony, the partners at Daft Badger took a financial hit—a big one. They gave a check in the amount of $2,136 to CDAIDE, the result of their month-long donation program for the busy summer month of July.
“Today’s a tough one,” said Darrell Dlouhy, one of the brewery’s founders. “That’s a big check.”
But then, that’s the point, Dlouhy said: “Let’s give until it hurts.”
Now in its fifth year of operation, Daft Badger Brewing has established itself in Coeur d’Alene as a place to go for conversation, food and, of course, beer. And toward the end of 2018, the brewery’s four partners—Dlouhy, Val Samuel (his wife) as well as Kari and Keith Bertram—decided it was time to do something purposefully to give back to the community.
One of their first thoughts was to carve out a time where pints were a dollar cheaper, and then the brewery would donate that dollar to a local charity. For a place that didn’t really have a true happy hour, it seemed like a reasonable place to start. But for Dlouhy, that wasn’t enough.
Double it, he said.
So, they settled on this: Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, beer is a dollar cheaper from 2 to 5pm. For every pint sold during that period in a given month, Daft Badger donates $2 to a local charity. They rotate in a new charity each month.
In eight months, Daft Badger has donated $10,233 to local charities, and never less than $1,000 in a given month. The one for CDAIDE—an organization that “serves those working in Coeur d’Alene area restaurants and hotels by providing resources and emergency financial assistance, as well as building positive relationships,” according to its mission statement—was the first for more than $2,000.
And while that does take a bite from their bottom line, Dlouhy said he’s happy to do it.
“We do care. Coeur d’Alene is an incredible area with so many nonprofits,” Dlouhy said. “We’re happy to help, and it’s something we can do.”
Rebecca Gershenson Smith is the board chair for CDAIDE. Working so closely with service industry, she said she knows well how much that check must have impacted an operation the size of Daft Badger.
“I was shocked at how much [the check was],” Gershenson Smith said. “This is a small, local independent business. The profit margin in the food and beverage business is not huge. So to be a small, independent local business and give that generously really says a lot.”
Previously, Daft Badger has donated to North Idaho Centennial Trail, Kootenai County Humane Society, Idaho Youth Ranch, the Children’s Village, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, The Coeur Group and St. Vincent de Paul. They call the program “Daft Gives Back.”
August’s donations will be given early September to Strong Families Through Youth Sports, which offers scholarships to children in low-income or underprivileged homes.
“We had a flood of people asking of course, and we did a first come, first served as long as they’re a nonprofit,” Dlouhy said.
For Daft Badger, the benefit of such a program is a little harder to directly measure, Dlouhy said, though there are a few clear ways it gets their name out. The word spreads on social media as Daft Badger and the nonprofits post about the monthly partnerships. Organizations usually send out emails to their distribution lists to encourage people to go to the brewery in those afternoon slots, and there is the hope that patrons will return in later months.
“With a business that is that supportive of the community, it sticks with you,” Gershenson Smith said. “So for us, it’s not just about them doing this work in the month of July. This is a business that I know invests in the community, in many charities, so that’s a business that I want to go back to.”
There is also the benefit of encouraging people to visit the tap room during a less-peak time—though, Dlouhy said, the summer months have proved to be much busier in the afternoons than in the spring or winter. But Daft Badger is also a restaurant, and more people in the space means more possible food sales as well.
When the partners at Daft Badger designed their tap room and restaurant space, they did so to maximize square footage. They bought narrow tables in order to create more seating, and though that means less space for plates, it also fosters more conversation.
“Our tables are just as wide as they have to be, and what happens is, people come in here and they sit and talk forever,” Dlouhy said.
“That was something we didn’t quite expect, and that didn’t bother us in the least. Beer and food is good grease for conversation, and it’s not all frivolous. People don’t drink too much here. It’s about conversation. It’s about connection.”
That fits into what Dlouhy hopes Daft Badger can be: an integral place in the community where members come to meet, talk, eat and drink.
“It’s a gathering place in a lot of ways,” Dlouhy said.