Culture

America’s Favorite Bars for Talking Politics

An Irish pub on a street corner in Boston.
Doyle's Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts is built around a love of local politicians and Irish pride.

Since the days of our Founding Fathers, bars and taverns have been an integral setting for politics. From hosting town halls to propelling party machines, drinking and politicking go hand in hand. Here, we round up some of the noteworthy bars where the guests are just as likely to be discussing the outcome of the latest debate as they are the most recent sports game. These are bars that have shaped our country’s government, where candidates rally and celebrate, and where politicians meet the voter on the street (or in the booth).

Govnr’s Park Tavern: Denver, Colorado

The Capitol Hill district of Denver gets its name from the Colorado State Capitol Building on the west edge of the neighborhood. Govnr’s Park Tavern has been a feature of this stately and eclectic neighborhood since 1976. The bar has hosted two Governors’ acceptance speeches, its fair share of political rallies and innumerable election watch parties. General manager Larron Frazier says the bar attracts a bi-partisan crowd with good energy. “We don’t have a particular drink that we feature for debate watch parties, but we do have a lot of signature cocktails that we rally around all the time.” Frazier recommends The Poolside, a concoction blended of grapefruit vodka and muddled cucumber.

Ropewalk Tavern: Baltimore, Maryland

Situated in the historical neighborhood of Federal Hill, Ropewalk Tavern seeks to preserve a taste of the area’s history. The hill itself got its name following a celebration of the federal government being established in 1789 with the final ratification of the Constitution, while the bar recalls the shipbuilders and rope-makers who worked there. The bar has a reputation for drawing a right-leaning crowd prone to spirited political discussions; it’s a favorite for the city’s Republican party to host its debate watching parties. But with some 155 beers to choose from, plus wine and cocktails, there’s sure to be something on the menu for everyone’s tastes, no matter your political stripes.

Manuel’s Tavern: Atlanta, Georgia

This bar was founded in 1956 by Manuel Maloof, who would go on to become the CEO and Commission Chairman of DeKalb County, Georgia. “He always called himself just a barkeep, even when he was the chief executive of a county of 800,000 people,” says Angelo Fuster. Fuster describes himself as a regular at Manuel’s and is part of an informal group who meets there to discuss politics.

Manuel’s Tavern became a focal point for Atlanta’s Democratic party. Jimmy Carter announced his intentions to run for governor at Manuel’s tavern, and the bar is a still popular stop for politicians on the stump. The decor is filled with photographs of political figures who have made appearances, including Robert Kennedy and Bill Clinton. The drink menu highlights local breweries but PBR is a popular drink of choice, but one word of advice: don’t try to order a Coors — Maloof refused to serve it after disagreeing with Adolph Coors’ politics, and his sons keep up the tradition.

Schaller’s Pump: Chicago, Illinois

Likely the oldest bar in Chicago, the establishment opened in 1881 and became a speakeasy during Prohibition—with its own brewery next door. Schaller’s Pump is famously a “second office” for the area political democrats, including former mayor Richard J. Daley. That legacy lives on: when the current owner Jack Schaller celebrated his 90th birthday last year, Cook County Commissioner John Daley honored him.

A brewery in California next to the ocean.If you have to talk about politics somewhere, Half Moon Bay Brewery seems like the most peaceful possible option.

Half Moon Bay Brewery: Bay Area, California

Lenny Mendonca, the co-founder of the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, was tired of all the yelling on TV. So he started Brews and Views, a community forum held twice-monthly at the brewery to discuss all kinds of current issues. “You have a different kind of conversation when you’re sitting down at a table and having a beer with someone,” says Mendonca. He invites a different speaker for each event to cover topics that range from marijuana legalization to local development projects. Come presidential election season, the brewery creates a beer for each nominee and invites guests to debate the merits of each. After two elections, Mendonca said it’s no longer a secret which one wins—“it’s the exact same beer with two different labels on it.”

Doyle’s Cafe: Boston, Massachusetts

Another bar that displays its history on the walls, you’ll find the faces of many Boston politicians in the photographs at Doyle’s Cafe. Established in 1984, this quintessential Irish pub spent Prohibition as a shoe store. One point of pride is its banquet room named for former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Today, the bar is still a meeting place for politically minded groups. It was the first bar to put Samuel Adams beer on tap, and you can take a tour of the nearby brewery.

Off The Record: Washington, D.C.

There’s no shortage of politicians in need of a drink around the nation’s capital, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of bars where you can find people talking politics in D.C. But Off The Record’s secret entrance from the lobby of the Hay-Adams Hotel is classified information and makes conversations happening behind those doors feel all the more important. It’s a spot for true political insiders, favored by White House staff, members of congress and lobbyists, so expect a clientele dressed in suits and pricey cocktails.

The interior of a swanky bar in New York City.Donald Trump's World Bar may take on a new energy this election season, as the toupeed billionaire makes his own run for Capital Hill.

World Bar: New York, New York

Located in the United Nations Plaza, you’re likely to overhear conversations about politics on the global level here — but they may not be in English. This high-end bar attracts a truly international crowd, including adventurers angling to order the $50.00 cocktail garnished with edible gold (Yelp reviews suggest it’s sometimes not available). More moderately priced cocktails (for midtown Manhattan, anyway) nod to the goings-on at the U.N. with names like “The Diplomat” and “The World Peace.” And of course, let’s not forget that the property’s owner, Donald Trump, has thrown his hat into the presidential ring for 2016, making it even more of a spectacle as the 2016 race heats up.

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