Cultivating a strong presence in the community by giving back is a boon for bar and nightclub owners and can help to engaging new clientele who may have skipped over their establishment. Jim Rowan, general manager of American Junkie in Chicago, knows this.
This fall the almost year-old restaurant and bar is pulling out all the stops and raising awareness during October with its breast cancer charity promotion, which is a major focus for him and his team, he says.
With 50% of proceeds going to the Chicagoland Area Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, Rowan and his team are offering a pineapple and coconut cake with Champagne sauce signature dessert ($8), while bar manager Tony Potempa will mix up cocktail and alcohol-free mocktails called The Fighter, made with cranberry juice, ginger simple syrup, a splash of half and half—and Greg Goose Vodka for the alcohol version—for $9. Additionally, guests can purchase American Junkie pink apparel including T-shirts, tank tops and hats adorned with the American Junkie logo, where 25% of net proceeds will be donated to Komen Chicago.
Being the first year the restaurant is open, undertaking a large charity promotion could seem daunting, but for Rowan it’s what helps his business thrive. Breast cancer awareness is “something that is extremely important,” he says, adding that it’s crucial to take part in promotions and bring awareness to important causes like this. Charity events can be beneficial to the business because it gets your brand name out there and what you’re doing. They help, he says, but it’s not all about that; it’s about giving back.
The idea of a breast cancer promotion has been on Rowan’s radar since July—when American Junkie was still in its infancy. “We began to discuss this when we were six months old,” he says. “It was part of strategic planning on what kind of charity we’re going to back, support and work with.” Plus, because it’s a whole month, Rowan and his team believe they can bring a lot of awareness to the cause.
“We started planning early,” he reiterates. The biggest challenge was assessing “what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.” Rowan worked with the pastry chef for the dessert and mixologist on the drink, which “obviously had to have the signature pink color,” he says. In addition, the quality staff at American Junkie all have a vested interested in the breast cancer promotion. “Quite a few staff members have been affected [by breast cancer] and it’s important,” he says.
“When you find that bond, it’s not making or telling the staff what to do, it’s something that’s just right. It’s not something we have to incentivize; they just do it” because it’s important.