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Belly Up

Feb 16, 2012
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Booze and bleeding hearts make up Drinking Liberally group

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 fun.”

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 said.

“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.

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