Her choice, Corridor Rescue, ended up being the winning charity for January and will get the bar's profits for February.
Anna Barbosa, Corridor Rescue's fundraising director, said the donation will allow the nonprofit to support its spay-neuter program and offer medical care for more animals.
"It just means the world to us to get this kind of community support and through the charity bar we're so grateful because we get more visibility," she said.
Nick Vilelle, one of the co-founders of Cause, a Washington, D.C., "philanthropub," said showing how and where the money is spent is key for bars like his to succeed.
"It's too easy for someone to use cause marketing as a gimmick and say some portion of your proceeds goes to help some certain cause," he said of the bar, which opened in late October. "If we're not transparent about that, people can obviously abuse that."
Like the Houston bar, Cause lets customers choose from four charities. At the end of a quarter, votes are tallied and each charity gets a percentage of the profits based on those votes.
Jason Franklin, executive director of New York-based Bolder Giving, an organization that educates people about philanthropy, said charity bars are another example of the blurring of boundaries between businesses and nonprofits.
Other businesses in recent years with similar philanthropic goals include Give Something Back, a California office supply company that's given 75 percent of its profits to charity; and Give Realty, an Austin, Texas, real estate company that donates 25 percent of its commissions.
Charitable giving took a hit after the recession, so nonprofits and similar groups continue to look for new ways to raise money, said Franklin, who also teaches courses on philanthropy at New York University.
"So if models like charity bars can prove effective, it's one more place to find new resources to do the work in communities that is needed," he said.
But, Franklin added, "If the drinks are bad, even if the giving is good, I think people will go elsewhere instead."
It's something Vilelle and other charity bar owners are aware of.
"First things first. You have to be a good bar and restaurant regardless of the charitable mission. That's not going to keep people coming back," Vilelle said.