The first meeting of the newest Drinking Liberally chapter in the country is underway at Peter B’s Brew Pub in Monterey. Before long, the aroma of Drinking Liberally-style democracy—fried onion rings and beer—is in the air, joined there by casual dialogue that touches on a range of political topics. One minute it’s Kenneth Starr’s recent decision to represent a school board in a case against a student that displayed a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner at an Olympic torch relay, the next it’s a discussion over reinstating the draft.

Somewhere, Drinking Liberally co-founder Justin Krebs is smiling.

“The idea is to give an easy and social and welcoming point of entry for people into politics,” he says. “For a long time politics was divorced from everyday lives—you go to vote once every four years, you go to florescent lit places with linoleum floors where political committees meet.”

Krebs and his friend Matthew O’Neill formed the first chapter in a seedy dive bar in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. Their rules were simple. One: Meet consistently and focus on dialogue, not endorsements, because such political maneuvers require votes and quorums that run counter to the informal environment Drinking Liberally seeks to cultivate. And two: Do it in a bar.

“A bar is a fundamentally liberal environment,” says Krebs, “where you share resources like space, booths, a pitcher of beer.” After all, he says, the American Revolution started in a tavern.

The second Drinking Liberally chapter formed in San Francisco a year after the first. From then on, Krebs says, it “exploded.”

Annie Ho, a contractor for the Department of Defense on the former Fort Ord, founded branch number 140 in Monterey. About 15 others, who ranged from teachers to artists, joined her last Thursday at Peter B’s.

“People don’t understand that politics affect so much of your life,” Ho said. “Too much of our politics is candidate driven. I like the dialogue.”

DRINKING LIBERALLY meets on the first Thursday of the month at 7pm at Peter B’s Brew Pub. Call 274-2273 or visit drinkingliberallymonterey.org.

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