The Drinking Liberally Des Moines chapter
usually draws 20-30 people into AJ’s on
East Court for drinks and conversation
about current events and politics.
By Amber Williams
They say there are two topics too taboo to
discuss over drinks — religion and politics.
But when discussed fairly and with open minds,
drunken ranting over politics can be both fun
and enlightening... and sometimes even therapeutic
and productive. That’s the goal of those who
attend Drinking Liberally at AJ’s on East Court
every Thursday night.
Now, if you hate gays, love guns and voted for
George W. Bush (the second time), you might
think this is not a social group for you, but
Kelli Griffis, one of the hosts of Drinking
Liberally Des Moines, says that’s not the case.
“What’s really interesting is we invite anybody
— even if you have a problem with liberal issues.
As long as the conversation is civil and respectful,
we encourage anybody to come,” she said. “And
it takes place during pool night, so it gets
pretty packed with some pretty conservative
folks, and sometimes we shout things across
the room at each other, but it’s all in good
Drinking Liberally is a national informal, inclusive
progressive social group that started in New
York City. Not long after George W. Bush was
elected president, Amanda Riordan started the
local chapter in Des Moines, Griffis said. Its
first meeting drew at least a dozen people,
and now as many as 20 or 30 attend.
“It depends on what issues are going on, if
there’s a special event, like a debate or a
State-of-the-Union, or a guest speaker,” Griffis
said. “It’s sort of a social hub for activists,
but it’s not an activist group. We just talk
about whatever is on our mind.”
Some hot button issues the group has bellied
up about recently are the Iowa caucuses, the
current state legislative actions and gay rights,
Griffis said. The group is non-partisan and
issues-based, which means it often hosts guest
speakers from environmental agencies, the AIDS
project and Gay Rights, for example.
“It gives activists an opportunity to recruit
volunteers if they want and let us know what’s
going on in their communities,” Griffis said.
Drinking Liberally gives left-leaning people
a place to talk dirty — politics, that is —
but the word “liberal” doesn’t just apply to
so-called “bleeding hearts” but the amount of
alcohol they can consume, as well. It’s as much
a social affair as it is anything else, she
“Amanda is a local Des Moines girl who was frustrated
not knowing where to go to meet young progressive
people when she discovered the New York chapter.
She decided on a whim to start a local chapter,”
Griffis said. “She married a guy she met through
Drinking Liberally. We now have Drinking Liberally
marriages and babies!
“My husband and I moved here from Chicago, and
we didn’t know how to meet anybody either. We’re
not big drinkers but they made us feel welcome
and feel included.”
Of course, mixing alcohol into a saucy, social
engagement naturally leads to heat and passion
— not just over the issues, which makes Drinking
Liberally a cool place to meet people and stay
informed on hot topics worldwide.
“It’s pretty relaxed. There are no rules, really,
as long as people are OK. There’s room for passion;
there’s room for heat,” she said. “It really
is just a very comfortable, laid back and friendly
environment. We welcome debate, and we welcome
dissent. We welcome everyone, really.
“Something the founder in New York says all
the time sums it up,” she said. “We’re all better
off when we live for each other than when we
live for ourselves.” CV
Drinking Liberally Des Moines
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
AJs on East Court
419 E. Court Ave.