A glimpse of the scene at Axelrad's Comey viewing party this morning.
The Heights' D&T Drive Inn also joined in with a Comey viewing party of it own.
Thursday mornings aren’t exactly prime time for the bar industry, but for an event that’s been coined the “Super Bowl of Washington,” you make an exception.
Bars and restaurants across the country opened their doors this morning as early as 8 am for sunrise cocktails and drinking games, however, the hoopla wasn’t in honor of a sporting event, but rather James Comey’s Senate hearing.
The former FBI director’s long awaited congressional testimony began today at 9 am. This highly-anticipated event and the implications it held for Donald Trump’s controversy-filled presidential tenure helped create a surreal bar scene.
With the political event being compared to the biggest sporting event of the American calendar year — the Super Bowl — it’s only right that the bars got in on the action, because what’s a big game without flowing food and drinks? (Washington D.C. bar Union Pub upped the ante with a free drink for every tweet from President Trump during the hearing, but didn’t have to pay out because the leader of the free world stayed uncharacteristically silent on social media).
In Houston, Treadsack restaurant group’s Chris Cusack took to Facebook to assess the interest in an early-morning Comey viewing party at their Heights beer garden D&T Drive Inn.
“Completely serious, if anyone is interested in meeting me at D&T at 8:30 tomorrow am, I will open the bar for Comey testimony drinking games,” Cusack wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday morning.
A few hours later, another message emerged: “OK, it’s on. 8:30am tomorrow come to D&T, and we’ll play some Comey testimony drinking games.” The event was since dubbed “Rise and Shine, Comey Testifies.”
Alabama Street beer garden Axelrad also opened its doors at 9 am Thursday, touting political-themed cocktails like the “Impeachmint” and the “Bad Hombre” alongside muffins, granola, coffee, and tacos from Retrospect Coffee Bar.
The event quickly garnered a packed house. Just 30 minutes in, a woman leaned over to me and whispered, “Wow. It seems as though this has become quite the social event.” She was right. At that point, Axelrad’s interiors were so jammed, there was merely standing room only.
But if you think these bar gatherings were just fun and games, think again. Houstonians of all ages, races, and backgrounds hovered around Axelrad’s televisions to first and foremost witness what many in attendance see as an unprecedented event in American history.
“I just wanted to be around like-minded people [this morning]. It’s such a huge event, and there’s been such a build up to it. I live around here, and I saw [Axelrad] was having this event, so I thought it’d be nice to come and watch here and not be alone,” attendee Trey Hughes says. “I think there’s a certain percentage of people, that no matter what is said, they’re going to hang onto their beliefs. They’re not going to change, but there’s already been stuff today that has come out that I didn’t think would come out.
“And [Comey’s] been so honest. I think he’s a good guy, and he’s speaking from his heart, I think.”
For some, the early morning bar time provided a way to connect with their fellow citizens.
“It’s kind of natural when there’s a collected interested for humans to group up and gather,” Houstonian Arianna McKinney tells PaperCity. “For me, I’m very interested in seeing how other people react to what’s going on. It’s easy to kind of get stuck in your bubble with all of your opinions and thoughts.
“It can be very refreshing and enlightening to talk to people that you don’t necessarily know and who might not share your same views.”
Similar sentiments made this one place in America where at least the importance of the hearings could be agreed on.
“I think [the Russia investigation] is a very important thing going on in American history. Being a daughter of an immigrant who came from a country where they weren’t allowed to have open elections and to assemble freely, it’s nice to be able to experience this with other Americans — our fellow countrymen — history in the making,” Maria-Elena Driver says.
“I think that it’s kind of a powerful thing to be with my fellow Houstonians who all care deeply about our government and what is happening with possible collusion between Russia and this administration,” Marla Grace says. “It’s sort of reassuring that Houston has a lot of people that are concerned and involved. There’s power in numbers, and it’s way more enjoyable than being at home. I’m not drinking, but the drinks look like a lot of fun!”
There were certainly plenty of people packed into Axelrad and other bars across America.
“I just like the community support. It’s like being one with the community. I’m fairly new to Houston, and this makes me hopeful to see all of the people that are here. I know I’m not the only one sitting at home watching this,” Tania Ingram says.
There are some at odds with the idea that people would venture to bars for such a serious occasion, with some likening the activity to a reality television show viewing party.
“I don’t know. Like, bars are opening early for a Senate hearing? I’m going to watch it, but I don’t feel good about it. Government as reality television sounds fun until it’s not anymore,” urban education advocate Larry Sanders wrote in a longer Facebook post. And maybe he’s onto something.
But for now, we can all agree that no matter what side of the political aisle you fall on, there’s something to be said about the camaraderie experienced while grabbing a beer with your fellow Americans, and witnessing what will go down as an iconic moment in our country’s history.
A packed bar at 9 a.m. in Houston screamed that much.