Dear PoP – More Politics in Bars

“Dear PoP,

I finally visited Star and Shamrock on H Street NE last weekend, and absolutely LOVED it. Friendly staff, relaxed atmosphere, great beer selection, and there’s Russian dressing right on the menu! However, I was kind of turned off by their beer coasters.

Similar to the Black Squirrel, I am not a fan of mixing political views with bars I visit. This just seemed odd to me and kind of put a bad taste in my mouth. I know you’re also a huge fan of this place and wanted to see if you knew about this.”

I wonder if this sorta thing is just inevitable in DC? I wonder if these coasters were dropped off and the managers/bartenders didn’t even see the political message. Personally, in this particular instance I’d much rather the bar stick to pouring a perfect Guinness and frying a perfect latke…

78 Comment

  • 100% positive it’s a paid advert, not anything the bar is promoting. they probably don’t even realize the message. Probably just opened the box of coasters and filled the holders.

    • I”ve actually seen that happen. They plastered H Street with these in the last few weeks. Some bartenders threw them out.

  • It’s DC deal with it. Move to NY and drink in Hell’s Kitchen. No politics go one there.

  • Yes. It is an advertising program. The bar gets free coasters in exchange for there being advertising on them. Kind of like the coffee sleeves with advertising. Once they buy into the program, they don’t get to chose the advertising.

  • Would it have left a bad taste in your mouth if you agreed with the political view being expressed? I guess that is the risk these places run by doing this. They have to gage whether or not their clientele are going to appreciate their sponsor’s political message and whether or not it makes business sense for them to do it.

    • “Would it have left a bad taste in your mouth if you agreed with the political view being expressed?”

      Spot on. If it had said,”” or somesuch, the OP probably would’ve taken one home and stapled it to his headboard.

      OR, wouldn’t have even noticed.

      • What’s your point. DC is overwhelmingly liberal. It just seems pretty stupid to alienate the majority of your clientele. Obiously they can put up a giant poster of “Republican Jesus” fellating Ronald Reagan–it’s a private establishment.

        Doesn’t mean it’s not a fucking stupid business decision.

        • Yeah but overwhelming numbers is not the same as overwhelming economic impact.

          If you’re advertising anything, you’re looking for money. There are plenty of conservatives with plenty of money.

        • Actually, that might play pretty well in Glover Park.

        • I agree it’s not particularly smart business considering the liberal leanings of DC, but my point was more about the OP. Had it been a political sentiment he/she agreed with, it wouldn’t have left him/her with a “bad taste” and we wouldn’t have even heard about it.

          I didn’t even say anything about the bar’s freedom to espouse whatever political sentiment they want. They can do whatever they want in that regard.

          • Absolutely! I’m sure conservatives have to deal with this every day in DC. Just not sure if Star & Shamrock has decided they want to become the right-wing bar on H Street. (although perhaps that would fit; traditionally wingnuts tend to take over the town’s Irish bars for some reason).

          • the “star” and the “shamrock” both represent something i find alienating and off putting, what’s a little politics thrown into the mix?

            they still have beer, and that’s what matters to me.

          • saf

            Jews and Irish are alienating and off-putting?

        • If you’re the kind of person who gets alienated over the political message of a beer coaster, they probably don’t want you as a customer.

          • No, they do. It’s not a clubhouse, it’s a business. They exist to make money, not exclude people.

            Viva la resistance! Always.

          • tres,
            not everything is driven by the bottom line.

          • People aren’t, but businesses are. This is a business. A good attitude doesn’t pay the rent. A good attitude doesn’t keep PepCo from shutting off the lights when you come up short at the end of the month. Money does.

      • I would have noticed! I agree with the ad but find it annoying–politics printing on a coaster!

    • Yes I would notice. I would continue to patronize if I agreed with the owner’s politics and I’d support a different bar if I disagreed.

      There should be D’s and R’s next to the door at bars in this town so I know where my hard earned tax dollar paid salary is going and whom I give it to.

  • It’s advertising like any other you’d find on a random coaster. The views expressed by this coaster are not necessarily those of the bar, the beer, or the barstool.

    I say, enjoy your beer and treat this the exact same way you would if it were some stupid Bacardi ad. Not everything needs to be an affront.

  • Totatlly not that big of a deal. Don’t agree with the message, but probably a good conversation starter, and it’s not like politics and bars don’t go together. Our country was practically created in a bar. So if you are really so offended, despite 24 hr news stations and unlimited funding toward political tv advertisements, that a political message be on your beer coaster, well you should stop drinking. Or vote republican… That is all….

  • It’s advertising. I’ve seen that same campaign in bars all over dc.

  • hey OP,
    the next time you disagree with a paid advert, you may want to re-consider posting an image of their full ad on a popular blog.. just sayin’.

  • A real Jewish/Irish deli wouldn’t espouses such BS right wing causes.
    It’s pretty insulting that the owners, bartenders, whoever would put something like that around the bar. I’m sure most of the folk that work in the “industry” would be a lot happier if they had proper health-care or a decent wage. But nope, keep handing out those tax cuts to defense contractors and Wal-Mart.

    Yours truly,
    Dues paying member of the Young Communist League of Washington, DC.

  • “The problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other peoples’ money.” — Margaret Thatcher

    • “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity” – Abraham Lincoln

      • I know you’re poking fun, but I would imagine it to be painfully easy.

        “Hey, Ma! Look at me on the penny! Whose a good fer nothin’ loser now, huh?”
        – Abraham Lincoln

    • That’s simply not true. You can keep taxing the middle class and rich more and more. I’m just waiting for Kwame to drop the tax bomb.

  • I like it. Seems like reminding people that the country is bankrupt is a good way to get them to drink more.

  • Star & Shamrock is a bar for people who travel to H St from Arlington and find out that it’s too crowded in the H St Country Club.

    As an H St. resident, these coasters give me yet another reason to avoid Star and Shamrock.

    • Immeasurably petty to chose your watering hole based on the coaster adverts.

      Or is this just the camel’s last straw for you as far as Star & Shamrock is concerned? (that’s an honest question, no snark.)

  • I have a few ideas:
    1-strike up a conversation with the bartender and see if (s)he shares you disdain for the coasters. If so ask for the box and then recycle them.
    2-take as many as you can while the bartender that doesn’t share your political views isn’t looking and recycle them.

  • I’m amazed at the number of people who come to DC and get all bent out of shape over other people’s political opinions. You’re all total hypocrites. Go back to whence you came, or grow up an develop a mature outlook.

    • Yes, *real* Washingtonians realize this shit doesn’t matter at all. What’s the big deal as long as yer getting paid?

      • That’s not quite it. The vast majority of people who come to DC are here for some sort of politics or at least here under the protection of or to influence the policies of one party or another (that applies to the lobbyists and the GS-whatevers).

        If you’re here for politics, you need mature to the point where you understand that both sides have a message and both sides act like ignorant fools. If you’re not convinced of this after 6 months of living in this city, you’re not qualified to be here to begin with.

        You’re part of the theater production, stop acting like your horrified at what goes on in the play.

        • Right, but it’s not a play. That’s the point. It’s only political naifs and soulless money-grubbers w/ no moral core who think it’s some sort of game. Folks who actually have to deal with this shit during their day job don’t need to be propagandized after hours. That’s the thing about bars in DC: There are a lot of them. And attendance is optional.

        • saf

          “The vast majority of people who come to DC are here for some sort of politics”

          In some neighborhoods. I don’t think you would find that true much beyond the hill, really.

          • Hey, most of on the Hill have nothing to do with politics either.

          • saf

            OK, thinking about it, you’re right.

            As I say to folks who bash Washington to me, “WE didn’t elect them, and frankly, we don’t really want them. Feel free to elect better ones!”

  • From now on I’m only drinking at Star and Shamrock and Black Squirrel. Thanks for the tips!

    • I think there’s usually a high concentration of right-wing douchebags at one or the other of the Irish pubs off of Mass Ave near Union Station (Dubliner or Irish Times), so that’s another option.

  • Margaret Thatcher, in a television interview for Thames TV This Week on February 5, 1976. Prime Minister Thatcher said, “…and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”


    I doubt you can find the reference by President Lincoln!

    • Abraham Lincoln, in a podcast interview with the Washington Star on April 15, 1865 before heading to take in an evening at the theater. President Lincoln said, “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.”


  • I feel bad for the bartenders that have to use those things. In the same way I’m sure a conservative person would be less likely to tip a bartender that handed them a coaster, I’d be less likely to tip this bartender well.

  • Probably shouldn’t comment given the level of hostility already on this thread, BUT: I’m sorry to see this. I like having a break from 24-7 politics.

    • Respectfully, I think you’re in the wrong town. It saturates the air around here…

      • Yet, for the 11 years I have lived here, going out to the bar or a neighborhood restaurant was generally a respite.

        p.s. I just expressed my preference against the expansion of formal politicking into more realms. My opinion. Don’t need to be told I’m in the wrong town. Respectfully.

        • I truly meant that respectfully. Didn’t mean to offend.

          On the general topic of intrusive ads: I guess I just have a pretty good filter for this kind of stuff – especially if I have a good, cold beer in front of me. I just don’t care.
          It’s super easy for me to just ignore it. Given the moronic nature of most advertising, I would go mad if I couldn’t.

        • And by the way, you just finished lamenting the hostility here, then you send some my way. Whatever.

      • Respectfully, just because you’re in DC doesn’t mean every square inch of the city has to deliver a political message*. I enjoy going to concerts, art museums, restaurants, parks, etc. precisely because I’m able to step away from the world that I’m surrounded by in my professional life. It’s not as if everything in Texas is related to oil, or places in New York must remind me that it is a financial capital. It’s nice to have places of respite, and i don’t see why DC should be exempt from that.

        *For the record, this left winger isn’t really bothered by the coaster. I just think KT has a good point re: being able to have access to palces to escape this stuff.

  • Why not just turn the coaster over?

  • If they serve a decent ale, it’s fine. Carry a sharpie and write in large, friendly letters BULLSHIT across the thing and return it to the pile. Or if you’ve got more time to kill, doodle an intricate rendering of Mothra dry-humping the Heritage Foundation building and call it a night.

    And no, I don’t believe “the vast majority” of people in this town are steeped in politics like some kind of localized virus. It may be the big business in town but I reckon “the vast majority” of us are “people” that work “jobs” that have nothing to do with those hypocrites in silk ties.

  • Here’s an idea: Stop staring at your coaster and bemoaning its message. Its a bar – chat someone up, watch a game, and, for pete’s sake, lighten up.

  • I’m with the OP. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bars should be politically neutral. The idea is to create a welcoming atmosphere (hospitality business, anyone?). This makes many of the patrons feel unwelcome to varying degrees. It drives away business. It’s an abdication of S+S’s responsibility to provide hospitality.

    What’s on the plus side, free coasters?

  • Toss it back to the bartender and leave a big wet ring on the polished mahogany…that’ll learn ’em

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