James Comey’s Testimony Drew Crowds to Washington, D.C. Bars

3 minute read

It’s 10:45 a.m. and Duffy’s Irish Pub in Washington’s hip U Street corridor is standing room only. Patrons spill out onto an outdoor patio, also packed, as waiters thread their way through the crowd with Bloody Marys and pitchers of beer.

Despite the crowd, it’s almost completely silent: every flatscreen in the pub, plus an auxiliary screen outside, was tuned to CNN’s coverage of former F.B.I. director James Comey’s Congressional hearing.

“We’re all sort of waiting with bated breath,” says Rachel Fairchild, a teaching assistant at George Washington University. She was gripping the remnants of an electric orange “Covfefe cocktail”—a concoction of vodka and orange soda garnished with a wedge of lime. “I feel like this is history in the making.”

Bars and taverns across Washington opened their doors early Thursday for swarms of viewers, offering specialty drinks and prime seats for the hearing. For some patrons, the unusually festive morning felt like a major sporting event or a carnival. Others liken the mood to the election, or the days of Iran Contra, or Watergate.

“We thought we should be with other people watching it,” says Suzanne Bond, who took the day off from work as a service provider for the homeless to watch the hearing with her retired husband, Jim Schmidt, at Shaw’s Tavern. They were standing at the back of a line for seats that extends the length of the block.

“We went to the Women’s March and this feels a little like that,” Schmidt adds. “Maybe this will be a historic day.”

At Commissary DC, a cafe and bar in Logan Circle offering bottomless mimosas and “#bottomlessgossip,” viewers huddle over laptops and phone screens as the hearing kicks off. CNN is being projected larger-than-life on one wall, and playing on several flatscreens over the bar.

Melba Davis, sitting in Commissary’s lounge, said she’d usually watch an event like this from home. But today’s potent combination of mimosas, genuine worry and political drama she likens to shows like Scandal and House of Cards was too good to pass up.

“I get the vibe that everyone is super excited, but because this is D.C., we all want to maintain a certain level of sincerity,” she said, gesturing around the lounge.

Not every D.C. venue was packed with onlookers. At the Trump International Hotel off the mall, three giant screens above the hotels’s bar were tuned to muted Fox News coverage of the proceedings, while a fourth showed a tennis match.

Kalvin Wayne, one of four patrons at the bar, said he hadn’t really been watching. “I’m tired of hearing about the Russian thing,” he says. “I’m more interested in infrastructure talk.”

Back at Duffy’s, the crowd is warming up a bit. The line, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” in reference to the possibility that President Trump could have recorded private conversations with Comey, elicited laughter and applause; someone shouts the line back from the bar. Rachel Fairchild ordered another Covfefe. “We have a front row seat to the chaos,” she says. “We might as well enjoy it.”

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Write to Emma Talkoff at emma.talkoff@time.com