Where your money goes when you eat at Tacos Libertad

Tacos Libertad in Hillcrest is the Cohn Restaurant Group's more than 2-year-old nonprofit restaurant that channels 100 percent of its profits to a different local charity each month.
(Cohn Restaurant Group)

The Cohn Restaurants’ group not-for-profit restaurant in Hillcrest has raised $100,000 for charities, from Alpha Project to Meals on Wheels


More than two years after opening Tacos Libertad, its first not-for-profit eatery, the Cohn Restaurant Group is celebrating a major milestone — over $100,000 donated to more than two dozen San Diego County charities.

Following through on a commitment to donate at least $3,000 each month to a charitable organization, the restaurant group has disbursed profits amounting to as much as $11,700 to 29 charities through October. Believed to be the first San Diego eatery of its kind when it opened in May of 2017, Tacos Libertad has continued to grow in popularity, and with increased business has come increased profits that can go to chosen charities.

“We guarantee each group will have a minimum donation of $3,000,” said David Cohn, founder of the Cohn Restaurant Group, which has a long history of philanthropy, donating money to more than 300 organizations annually. “A lot of how much they get has to do with the group. Some groups have gotten their supporters to come down and host fundraising nights and as a result, some have raised close to $10,000 in a month. Business has been growing and so we have been donating more to groups.”

The charities that have been the beneficiaries of Taco Libertad’s philanthropy are a diverse group, from the California Innocence Project and Girl Scouts San Diego to the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation and Balboa Conservancy.

An anonymous advisory group each month reviews applications from interested charities and tries to pick local groups where the money can really make a notable difference, said Jeff Pitroff, operations manager for Tacos Libertad. Sometimes the chosen charity is tied to a particular month, such as those dedicated to cancer awareness or Down Syndrome.

The largest donation so far has been more than $11,000 for the Center for Gender-Affirming Care at Rady Children’s Hospital, Pitroff said. Rady was the chosen charity for the month of July, when the Hillcrest restaurant is especially busy because of the city’s annual Pride celebration.

One of the earlier beneficiaries was the Alpha Project, a San Diego nonprofit that serves the homeless. CEO Bob McElroy said he was especially impressed by the willingness of a restaurateur to donate profits from a single business to individual organizations.

“That kind of philanthropy is awesome, they didn’t have to do that,” McElroy said. “And it’s really painless for the nonprofits who get the money.”

In the case of the Alpha Project, the $3,000 it received went toward supplementing food and other basic necessities it offers to homeless residents at two shelters it operates, as well as at its veterans housing facility in Normal Heights.

“We used that money for extra goodie baskets for our folks, for stuff we wouldn’t normally have, like hygiene packs and toiletries, move-in kits — not just food,” McElroy said. “It really went a long way.”