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Feb. 27, 2021

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Sunrise Rotary plans ‘cash mobs’ to support Vancouver bars, restaurants

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Sunrise Rotary Club members chat underneath a covered area during their cash mob event on Tuesday afternoon at the Columbia Food Park in downtown Vancouver. The group meets at a local restaurant each week to support small businesses.
Sunrise Rotary Club members chat underneath a covered area during their cash mob event on Tuesday afternoon at the Columbia Food Park in downtown Vancouver. The group meets at a local restaurant each week to support small businesses. (Photos by Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver Sunrise Rotary recently launched a series of “cash mobs” to help boost sales and morale at local bars and restaurants, which have suffered during the pandemic.

These get-togethers are inspired by flash mobs, a social media phenomonon in which a group of people show up at a specific location to do a specific thing then disperse. At a cash mob, participants visit a local business and spend money.

Information about where and when to meet for this weekly event is posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

“It’s one day, so it isn’t life-changing, but a morale boost,” said Mark Carter, membership chairman of Vancouver Sunrise Rotary.

He brought up the idea at a weekly club meeting. His fellow Rotarians loved the idea and quickly moved to make it happen.

“It takes many hands to make this successful,” he said.

Carter started by assembling a list of local businesses that have given back to the community in the past. He contacted the owners and set up a day and time for the event.

The first cash mob assembled at Mahoney’s Public House on the evening of Jan. 13.

“It was extremely kind of Rotary to do that,” said Tom Mahoney, owner of the Felida neighborhood bar.

Mahoney said it’s hard to calculate what percentage of business was from the cash mob because Jan. 13 was a sunny day and the first day that Washington’s pandemic regulations permitted 25 percent capacity in dining rooms with open air seating.

“It was extremely successful, without the cash mob it wouldn’t have been as good,” Mahoney said.

The rush of business brightened the morale of his employees. One bartender told him that it actually felt like a bar again.

“It was so nice to have somebody in our corner, with everything else going on,” Mahoney said.

Rotarians were the majority of participants for this first event, but word has spread through social media and a meetup at Brothers Cascadia Brewing drew more of the general public. The Rotary club’s goal is to increase the number of people week after week like another popular fundraiser, Savor the Couve, which is offering a weekly pickup meal through the end of March.

A recent cash mob at Mighty Bowl yielded a small turnout. It was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. At 11:40 a.m., a “mob” of two sat outside in Mighty Bowl’s parklet eating grain bowls and trying to stay warm on a chilly, windy winter’s day.

Although the meetup didn’t drastically increase sales, Mighty Bowl owner Steve Valenta appreciated the effort.

“Loved the heart of the program and we were super appreciative,” he said. “The people that did come were positive and in good spirits! We appreciated that.”

Future events are scheduled for Main Event (2 p.m. Tuesday) and Juliano’s Pizzeria (11:30 a.m. Feb. 22). The Diner, The Grocery and Patrick’s Hawaiian are on the list of spots for subsequent mobs. The club plans on expanding the cash mob to east Vancouver, Camas and Battle Ground.

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