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Donations Save Bars, Brewers & Wikipedia

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- During a deep recession and credit crisis in which bailouts come from the top down, pockets of American commerce are being bolstered from the bottom up as everyday people are saving bars, brewers -- even Wikipedia -- with private donations.

When times were tough for Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC), the Obama administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program helped them out with about $45 billion apiece. The two commercial banks, employing several hundred thousand people across the country, were deemed by the government as "too big to fail."

That wasn't the case with small businesses such as the Pink Tea Cup, a soul-food restaurant in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, N.J., online encyclopedia Wikipedia of California, Milwaukee-based beer brewer Pabst Blue Ribbon and Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers of the National Football League.

Even relatively little Discover Financial (DFS), the credit-card company, received $1.2 billion from the U.S. That could have saved 12,000 outlets of the Pink Tea Cup, which faced closure in mid-December when owner Lisa Ford said operating expenses grew too heavy a burden.

The Pink Tea Cup was saved after an online fundraising effort by a group of the restaurant's fans took in $100,000 and allowed restaurant manager Vincent Pinkney, and local filmmaker and theater owner Lawrence Page to purchase the eatery. Meanwhile, similar efforts have kept bands onstage at the Court Tavern in New Jersey -- where $20,000 in donations saved the venue from closure last month -- and have generated more than $160 million in pledges for a community bid to buy Pabst Brewing Co., the all-American beer company founded by German immigrant Jacob Best in 1844.

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