The Washington Post
Where to watch the presidential debates photo
(Ricky Carioti)

Where to watch the presidential debates

Fritz Hahn  |  Updated 10/03/2012

Only in Washington do we flock to bars to watch a presidential debate as if we were heading out to watch the Super Bowl.

Over the next few weeks, bars and restaurants around the area will hold debate-viewing events featuring projection screens and drinking games. Here are some of our favorites, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

If you need a reminder, the presidential debates are on Wednesday, Oct. 3; Tuesday, Oct. 16; and Monday, Oct. 22. The vice presidential debate is on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Election 2012: Vote with your mouth


201 Bar

Washington, DC

Just in time for election season, Capitol Hill's Lounge 201 has been reborn as the 201 Bar, with a modern look, a new menu and a streamlined cocktail list. More important, large flat-screen televisions hang on the walls. All presidential and vice presidential debates will be shown with audio throughout the bar, and bartenders will shake up politically themed cocktails. If you're coming with a group, call ahead to reserve a table.


Bar 7

Washington, DC

From 5 to 9 p.m., Bar 7 is offering free admission, a free "lavish" buffet and a happy hour that includes $3 beers and $4 Don Julio Tequila and Hennessy drinks. DJ Money and DJ Premonition provide the tunes. (Note: This party is sponsored African Americans for Obama and the Howard University Graduate Student Assembly.)



Washington, DC

When your bar uses a president's image in its logo, you have to show the debates. Bullfeathers - said to be a favorite expression of Theodore Roosevelt's - will show the four debates with sound throughout the Capitol Hill restaurant. This should appeal to budget-minded, because all debates fall during the bar's Pony Express happy hour: Get a pony glass of any of the 31 draft beers for $3.


Busboys and Poets

+ Multiple Locations

Busboys and Poets will screen all three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate in its four restaurants. The restaurant at 14th and V streets NW was ground zero for Obama supporters in 2008. The Fifth and K streets NW location hosts a viewing party with the League of Young Voters on Wednesday night. The debate Oct. 16 will be preceded by a discussion with Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, the authors of "The Making of Global Capitalism," in the 14th Street store. And there will be plenty of non-debate events throughout campaign season, including a discussion with Ralph Nader, who will be signing copies of his new book, "The Seventeen Solutions" (Oct. 5 at 14th Street), and the Progressivism on Tap happy hour (Oct. 24 at K Street).


Mason Inn

Washington, DC

Mason Inn is planning a series of "low-key debate-watching parties" that should draw heavily from the bar's Republican-leaning crowd.


The Pug

Washington, DC

"No politics" is one of the rules at the Pug , thanks to owner Tony Tomelden's years serving beers to Hill staffers at Capitol Lounge. But he makes an exception every four years at his H Street dive bar, where the debate will be on with sound. Drinking games are guaranteed.


Tortilla Coast

Washington, DC

The presidential debates will be the big draw at most Capitol Hill bars, but you can bet that the staff at Tortilla Coast will be paying close attention to the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, when Paul Ryan debates Joe Biden. Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, worked as a server at Tortilla Coast when he first arrived in Washington as a Senate staffer in the early 1990s. The restaurant will broadcast his big moment on all of the televisions with full sound. Get there before 7 p.m. to reserve a seat - and grab a $6 frozen margarita.


Ventnor Sports Cafe

Washington, DC

Ventnor Sports Cafe is known for hosting an annual State of the Union party where customers get a $1 shot every time the president says a particular word. For the first presidential debate, Ventnor owner Scott Auslander plans on hosting a bingo-style drinking game. (Call ahead about future debate parties, which may not happen if they clash with baseball playoffs.) "It's a very D.C. thing to do," Auslander says of his events. "People actually watch these things. We just want it to be more than people staring at TVs."



Washington, DC

On debate nights, the J.W. Marriott's bar serves up such election-themed menu items as the Campaign Champagne Cocktail, made with elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine, and the rummy Barockin' Mai Tai. The bar also offers Left Wings (chicken wings with a Hawaiian pineapple glaze) and Right Wings, which are served with a pot of Boston-style baked beans.


The Federalist

Washington, DC

The Madison Hotel's bar will screen all debates and serve politically themed cocktails.


Lou's City Bar

Washington, DC

Lou's City Bar will have viewing parties and drink specials for every debate. The first one is the most promising: half-price draft beer all night on Wednesday, Oct. 3.


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