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Posted at 11:43 AM ET, 09/25/2008

Debating Where to Go Friday

By Fritz Hahn

There are many parallels between sports and politics, and in Washington, the lines are blurred even further every four years. While the rest of the country comes together in pubs and sports bars to watch their favorite football and baseball teams, in D.C., we fill lounges and restaurants to cheer on politicians, and the presidential debates are shown on 10-foot screens.

Here's our guide to debate-watching events. A number of bars I spoke to hadn't finalized plans yet. As we hear about those, we'll update this post.

9/26 Update: Since the original blog post, other places throwing debate-watching parties have asked to be included. We've added them into the appropriate categories.

Parties on Capitol Hill | Parties That Lean Right | Parties That Lean Left | Nonpartisan Parties

Parties on Capitol Hill

The Hill is where many of the staffers and die-hard politicos are going to be hanging out. No matter where you're going, plan to arrive early to get a seat. Unless otherwise noted, expect to find the debates on TVs with the sound on.

B. Smith's
Union Station's presidential suite, used by chief executives from Taft to Eisenhower and many kings and queens of the world, is now occupied by B. Smith's southern restaurant. Seems like a natural place to watch the debate, especially because the bar will have special happy hour prices and themed cocktails, including the "Obama Bahama Mama" and the "McCain Mt. Gay mojito." Some lucky debate-viewer will win a dinner for four at the restaurant.

All six TVs at Bullfeathers will be tuned to the debate, and a mix of food and drink specials will be offered from 4 until close.

Capitol Lounge
Expect the crowds to pile in for happy hour, with $3 Bud and Bud Light bottles, $3 Yuenglings, $3 house ambers and $4 rail drinks from 4 to 7, plus half-price wines by the glass and bottle all night. The Lounge draws a younger crowd that drifts slightly Republican. One word of warning: While the sound will be on, says events director Alexandra Adair, "I can't promise that it will be a quiet room."

Charlie Palmer Steak
The popular D.C. steakhouse will be showing debate in its bar area.

Hawk and Dove
Sixteen televisions scattered through five different rooms will be showing nothing but the debate for a crowd that trends Democratic. On Fridays, Hawk and Dove stands out because of its late happy hour specials: pints of Miller Lite are $1.75 from 5 to 9, and pitchers are $7 during the same period.

Johnny's Half Shell
The seafood restaurant is showing the debate on a television at the bar and also opening one of its private rooms, which features a big-screen TV. There are no specials at debate-time, so get there before 7:30 for discounted drinks and tasty oysters.

Lounge 201
The Lounge is trying to strike a balance between die-hard politicos and more casual happy hour customers. The debate will be shown with sound in 201's large back room, while in the main bar, the debate will be shown on TVs while a DJ spins. Of course, owner Matt Weiss says, if a large crowd shows up and demands the debate with audio, they'll get it. Partisans can show their support by ordering special McCain and Obama martinis, and the bar will tally up the results to help "elect" a victor.

Tortilla Coast
All of the TVs in the bar of this longtime Republican hangout will be showing the debate, and the drink specials -- $2.75 pints of the house Tortilla Coast amber and $1 off all varieties of frozen margaritas -- go all night.

Union Pub
Some of the best views on Capitol Hill will be in Union Pub's main dining room, where the debate will be shown on a 100-inch high-definition projection screen and a 70-inch flatscreen. Both "blue state" and "red state" martinis will be offered. If you need a break from partisan rancor, there won't be sound in the front bar or on the large covered patio.

Parties That Lean Right

Bailey's Pub and Grille (Crystal City)
Bailey's Pub and Grille seems to be the fault line of Arlington politics. The local branch of the Young Republicans will be gathered in the back room of the Crystal City sports bar, while the Democrats will be at its sister bar in Ballston. (More on that below.) An RSVP is requested to join the Republican event; admission is free and doors open at 7:30.

Clyde's of Alexandria
Alexandria Republicans are gathering in the back bar at Clyde's in Mark Center, which will be offering happy hour food prices all night long.

Gin & Tonic
While this party isn't officially a Republican affair, we know that owner Fritz Brogan worked for the last Bush/Cheney campaign and held a "reunion" of staffers from that election at his old bar the Deck last summer. The debate will be shown on the bar's brand-new flatscreen TVs, including a 52-inch plasma, while the bartenders pour $3 Miller Lites, $5 Jagermeister and Southern Comfort shots and $6 Red Bull and vodkas. In an e-mail, Brogan said "We were going to have a drinking game involved, but if one were to drink every time buzzwords and zingers were used in this election, it would be a long night."

Parties That Lean Left

Bailey's Pub and Grille (Ballston)
The official gathering place for Arlington Democrats will play the debate on multiple TVs and feature games like buzzword bingo. Admission is free for members and $10 for everyone else, and that price includes one drink.

Busboys and Poets
All three locations of Busboys and Poets (14th Street, Shirlington and the new City Vista at 5th and K) are hosting watch parties with full sound. Ask about the special drinks created specifically for the occasion, like the "Obama" and the "Biden." U Street and Shirlington will have the debate on 10-foot projection screens, while City Vista will have it on all five TVs.

You might expect a restaurant and lounge called Leftbank to lean to the left, and you'd be, well, right. The viewing party in Adams Morgan includes drink specials ($4 beers, $5 rail drinks) and DJ spinning from the end of the debate until 2 a.m. A $10 cover charge benefits get-out-the-vote efforts in Virginia.

Dubbed "The Battle for 1600," this party -- at the restaurant on the ground floor of Bohemian Caverns -- features multiple TVs and food and drink specials all night. Doors open at 8.

Town Danceboutique
Obama Pride will be hosting a viewing party at Town. While the drag show is going on downstairs, the debate will be playing on large TVs in the upstairs lounge. The usual admission charges apply ($5 before 11 p.m.) but you can stick around after the debate and talk politics -- or dance your shirt off -- until 4 a.m.

Nonpartisan Events

The Argonaut
The H Street tavern is getting in the spirit with special red and blue shooters, plus the debates (with audio) on every screen.

Cap City Brewing Company
All three Capitol City Brewing Company locations will be showing the debates, and it's no coincidence that the brewery just unveiled its new Election Ale, a light, crisp beer with a touch of hops. (On Nov. 5, Election Ale will be reformulated as InaugurAle with one additional ingredient: honey from the winning candidate's home state.) Expect the Cap City at Postal Square to be the most popular, as it's within spitting distance of the Capitol.

City Tavern Club
The City Tavern Club is hosting a 1940s-themed fundraiser for a charity that helps wounded veterans, and amid the swing dancing and cocktails, there will be a special debate-watching room.

Duffy's already has a pretty decent Friday happy hour -- $2 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller High Life, Schlitz, Natty Boh, Schaefer, Budweiser, Miller Lite, Schaeffer and Coors Light from 9 to close -- and they'll be offering all these specials while showing the debate on multiple televisions with surround sound.

Juste Lounge
The Bethesda lounge is extending its usual free-drinks happy hour to accommodate debate viewers. Everyone who drops in tonight with a free pass from gets tickets for two free drinks that can be redeemed between 9 and 10. The debate will be shown on flatscreen TVs throughout the bar and restaurant areas, with full sound.

The Root, a Washington Post Web site for African Americans, is hosting a viewing party on Marvin's rooftop beginning at 8 p.m. There will be drinks specials and a chance to meet some of the Root's columnists and bloggers.

The Republic
It's Congressional Black Caucus week, and there's an unofficial debate viewing party at the Republic targeted at CBC members and employees from D.C. nonprofits, but anyone is welcome. Hosted in part by the Lifting as We Climb Foundation, which helps inner-city youth with leadership, health and physical education, the evening includes a DJ and dancing after the debates. Admission is free with an RSVP to

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | September 25, 2008; 11:43 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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forget the debates chuck is at the reaganz itc.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

We will also be showing the debate here at Ventnor in Adams Morgan...We will be reviving our State of the Union event party with the pick a word for $1 Shots....

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous, if you don't mind the rain, you can do both -- Chuck Brown's playing at the Reagan Building from 5 to 7, and the debates don't start until 9.

Posted by: Fritz | September 26, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

chuck's also playing on 9/27 at the old wcc. hopefully i can catch that and pollard.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The gin and tonic party is bipartisan. Half the "host committee" are Democratic hill staffers.

Posted by: fyi | September 26, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

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