Drinking, and thinking, mostly Liberally
“We don’t unwelcome anyone,” said Heather as she motioned me and my Republican photographer to a darkened corner of the bar.
“That wouldn’t be very liberal of us,” said Baratunde, before ensuring I had a drink in hand.
Heather and Baratunde, along with the elusive Shai, are co-hosts of the Cambridge chapter of Drinking Liberally, where talk of politics and your drink of choice flow freely. These get-togethers are so free and casual we were all immediately on a first-name basis. Oh, and they wouldn’t give their last names.
Justin Krebs and Matthew O’Neill started Drinking Liberally in New York City in May 2003 with the intent to use the “democratic space” of the bar scene as a place for a free exchange of ideas. It is now a nationwide organization with chapters in almost every state. It came to Boston in the summer of 2004 with the Democratic National Convention. Volunteers would get together at a local bar after a day of campaigning, meeting at the Boston Beer Works before deciding in January to move to Cambridge’s Middlesex Lounge. Other chapters of Drinking Liberally still meet in Boston, at the 21st Amendment, and in Jamaica Plain, at James’s Gate. These weekly meetings are supposed to be a means to “lure people into politics socially,” Baratunde said.
Sometimes the meetings are structured by recent events, such as the presidential elections or Hurricane Katrina, and the hosts direct questions toward the group accordingly. The meetings are rarely so rigidly planned and are, more often than not, an informal get-together of like-minded friends with the intent to freely discuss ideas. Nor are topics politically exclusive. Last Tuesday, for example, the conversation included iPod taboos, the religious affiliations of Halloween traditions and local art shows, as well as light discussion of some of Bush’s policy failures.
“It’s a really casual meeting place,” commented Mike, a frequenter of these Tuesday night get-togethers, “This is a great way to stay involved, and all you do is go to a bar once a week.”
Some recent events sponsored by Drinking Liberally at Middlesex were a visit from Jesse Gordon, candidate for City Council, and an appearance by Billionaires for Bush, a satirical street theater group that adorn themselves in “billionaire” costumes to protest some of the president’s tax decisions.
The group is not exclusively Democratic, though most of its members are Democrats. The organizers welcome the difference of opinions and hope for discussion as a result of disagreements.
“Politics can be a taboo topic in everyday life,” Baratunde said, and Drinking Liberally is supposed to provide an atmosphere to open dialogue that may not take place in the workplace or home.
“Anything that brings people together to talk about events is good in my book,” commented Middlesex Lounge owner Chris Lute. “As long as they do it here.”
Drinking Liberally, which claims to be “promoting democracy one pint at a time,” meets Tuesdays from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at Middlesex Lounge, 315 Massachusetts Ave., near the Central Square T stop. There is parking on the avenue. Call (617) 868-6739 or go to cambridge.drinkingliberally.org.