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Presidential Debate Night: Booze, Snacks and Politics

Forget Super Bowl Sunday. For a number of businesses, the real profits may be in a completely different sort of showdown: Call it Presidential Debate Wednesday.

Odelia Cohen / Shutterstock.com

With President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney set to square off on Wednesday night in the first of three nationally televised debates, considerable attention is going to the potential political drama, particularly given this event’s focus on hot-button domestic issues. And naturally, the struggling American economy is expected to top the list.

But interestingly enough, the debate may create a micro-economy all its own, thanks to the many viewing parties – both at homes and in bars and restaurants. And while experts in the dining, snack food and beverage industries say it’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on the potential impact, many expect a bounce in sales this week. “It’s a contest and people like to watch contests,” says Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade journal.

They also to like eat and drink as they watch them. But even veteran restaurateurs say they’re surprised at how this presidential debate has prompted an interest in partying on par with a big game day in sports. A case in point: When Brendan Ring, proprietor of Nighttown, a Cleveland Heights, Ohio, restaurant and club, announced a week ago that he was putting a debate viewing party on the calendar, he expected he might get a few responses. But as of late Tuesday, he was up to 250 reservations — and he’s anticipating at least 100 more.

“We’re doing triple the business of a typical Wednesday night, if not quadruple,” says Ring, who’s bringing in eight 50-inch televisions to accommodate the crowd.

Ring is organizing his event with the help of Patch.com, the local news platform of online giant AOL, which is planning 30 such viewing parties across the country. Other venues range from the Busboys and Poets coffee house in Shirlington, Va., to The Draft sports bar in Concord, N.H.

While there’s an obvious financial incentive for these establishments to host such parties, Patch.com chief content officer Rachel Feddersen says the events are also about creating a sense of grassroots participation in the political process. And in that sense, they’re bringing the neighborhood tavern back to its true roots. “The tavern was the crossroads of the community,” says Feddersen.

But that’s not to say those hosting viewing parties at home will be doing any less drinking or feasting.  In that regard, snack food giant Frito-Lay is playing off the season of political debates with an ad — for its Tostitos brand — set in a crowded auditorium during one such political sparring contest. The message of the pitch: Tostitos are about uniting a divided America, so that there’s only one party — as in “party time.”



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    • There was a drinking game associated with the debates that was making its rounds through the various social media venues. Fairly popular and I would imagine largely attributable to the increase in people showing up at bars.

    • on what (international) TV channel does this come?
      I would like to see it here in Germany.

      And I dont like vulgar language either

    • Totally agree with Keith!! Do we need the vulgar language?

    • you’re a f*cking idiot…

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