That $20,000 One-Night Homeless Pop-Up Restaurant Is Happening This Weekend

There are currently 130 confirmed guests, though organizer Jason Pinardo says they could have as many as 200.

Pop-up organizer Jason Pinardo (left) with City Councilman-at-Large Allan Domb at City Hall on Thursday morning. (Photo by Erika Lewy)

Pop-up organizer Jason Pinardo (left) with City Councilman-at-Large Allan Domb at City Hall on Thursday morning. (Photo by Erika Lewy)

Less than one month after launching his crowdfunding page to raise $20,000 for a one-night pop-up restaurant for the homeless, Jason Pinardo says he’s all set to feed as many as 200 homeless people this weekend in Center City.

The event will take place on Sunday at the Armory on 23rd Street. On Thursday morning, just before accepting a proclamation in his honor at City Hall, Pinardo told us that he has 130 confirmed homeless guests and that he’s still waiting to hear from one shelter, which could send him as many as 70 additional guests.

When we originally spoke with Pinardo about his idea, he was three days into his campaign but had already raised more than $13,000. In the end, he received $22,995 in contributions in increments from $5 all the way up to more than $2,000.

Pat’s Steaks owner Frank Olivieri originally pledged $2,000 only to be outdone by Geno Vento of neighboring competition Geno’s Steaks. Olivieri later threw in $521 more.

Pinardo says he was actually expecting more contributions, even though he exceeded his goal, but promises that any funds remaining after Sunday’s pop-up will go directly to charity.

So how did Pinardo decide which homeless people get to attend?

“I didn’t pick the people who would participate,” he explains. “The shelters know the most about these people. We asked them to send us people who would benefit the most, who need hope. Some of those people already have hope. They’re just waiting on housing or opportunity. This is for the people don’t have that same sense of hope.”

In addition to a menu that includes lobster bisque, short ribs, Caprese salad and cannoli, Pinardo is providing entertainment in the form of a comedy show. Among the comedians in that lineup is Philly cheesesteak entrepreneur Tony Luke Jr., who recently got his standup start opening for Craig Shoemaker at Helium Comedy Club.

“When Jason explained to me what he was doing, how could I say no?” says Luke. “This is a great event that could do some real good, and I was honored to be asked to be a part of it. But if there are children there, I may have to change my routine on the spot, so I might bomb.”

There will also be a DJ and a “mocktail hour” with hors d’oeuvres, and various social services organizations will be on hand with mental health assistance, resume advice, and HIV services. Plus, the homeless attendees will be given name tags.

“I heard that some of the guests will go months without ever hearing their own name,” observes Pinardo. “So everyone — guests and volunteers — will be wearing name tags.”

Assuming he gets 200 attendees inside the Armory on Sunday and brings the event in at his budget of $20,000, that’s a cost of $100 per person — 5,000 percent more than the maximum that Broad Street Ministry spends per person, per meal. Broad Street Ministry told us that a one-night pop-up restaurant to feed no more than 200 homeless people might not be the best use of the money raised.

But the way Pinardo sees it, he’s not just setting up a soup kitchen. He’s giving the homeless an experience that they will remember. “My goal is to give somebody hope,” he told us earlier in February. “If we feed 150 people and just one person walks away with a sense of hope he can build on, that $20,000 is absolutely worth it.”

With reporting by Erika Lewy

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.