Leave your prejudices at the door.
Find new ones inside.
Overheard at the conservative happy hour First Friday at Union Pub: “I’ll be over at the Faith and Freedom conference tomorrow. . . . They beat Notre Dame this year. . . . When Snowmageddon happened two years ago, I had a reservation at Minibar. . . . The Weiner jokes are overwhelming me right now.”
Overheard at the progressive happy hour First Thursday at Lounge 201 the night before: “I’m also a PhD student. . . . I’m a lawyer by day but . . . We lost the message war! . . . Libertarianism doesn’t make sense. How can you abolish everything? . . . How drunk do I have to be to say, ‘Hey, Ron Paul intern’?”
First Friday formed in 2006 when a posse of Heritage Foundation co-workers ambled across Massachusetts Avenue NE to Union Pub. They desired a social setting with no strings attached (no guest speaker, no book reading, no dress code or registration or cover charge), so they formed their own.
“At other events you’d be having a good time, mingling, having a beer, and then all of a sudden it’d get quiet and Dick Armey would stand up and pontificate on the future of America — that sucks,” says one of the First Friday charter members, Brian Phillips, 33, communications director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “But if Dick Armey wants to come hang out, that’s great.”
First Friday lassoed big GOP names (Boehner, Steele, Newt) for guest appearances — nothing formal, just: “Oh hey, there’s Grover Norquist” — and word of mouth buoyed attendance until it became a consistent safe house for conservatives adrift in a blindingly liberal city.
First Thursday began two weeks ago in reaction to First Friday’s popularity and to reinvigorate the idling movement that elected Barack Obama in 2008. The organizers of First Thursday have boasted that they can out-network the conservatives. Whatever that means. (How is networking prowess tabulated? By the frequency with which one uses the word “networking”?)
“We’re flattered,” says Rich Counts, 26, current co-host of First Friday. “Anytime you see someone trying to pattern after what you’re doing, it’s a sign you’re doing things the right way.”
At 7 p.m. during the inaugural First Thursday, its creator, Jim McBride, 36, stands on a leopard-print ottoman in Lounge 201 and shouts his stump speech over Britney Spears’s “Till the World Ends” in front of a giant flat-screen TV showing coverage of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.