I always hear people say things like “Richmond has a heavy consumption culture,” or even “Richmond is full of hard-drinking, alcoholic m-f-ers,” overheard at the bar recently. Even visitors from bigger party destinations will comment on our town's obsession with getting bent. Not to say that everyone in this city drinks like an 18-year-old at Hadad's Lake on Best Friends Day, but I certainly don't see anyone abstaining. Richmond and the hooch go together like breaking and entering.
It's easy to say that every city is similar when it comes time to party. NYC is clearly the granddaddy of decadence. Go to the city of any Southeastern Conference school you'll see a mixture of college/party/bars/municipality. Head up the road to D.C. and find a region full of boozehounds (career-driven boozehounds, in comparison to our career-allergic boozehounds). So what makes Richmond king of the medium-sized party town, bastion of backwater booze communities?
Certainly our affiliation with the South helps. Our staunch refusal (until Dec. 1) to segregate our alcohol and our cigarettes (damn you, Kaine!) screams hard-drinking southerners. We like our Jim Beam (No. 2 liquor sold in Virginia by volume), and we like our Bud Light (No. 1 beer in the state). Our Commonwealth sold 9.2 million gallons of liquor in 2008 or, in terms that my addled readers can better understand, 795,412,236 shots. Almost enough to get the Wednesday night masses at Bar Louie tipsy.
I think it's our melting pot of tipplers that makes us such a widely acclaimed haven for the hard stuff. It's the hipsters getting soused on PBR and Stella at Ipanema. It's the collar-popping recent U.Va. grads flooding Star-Lite on Friday evenings for pitchers of Miller Lite. It's the past-their-prime yet still “lovable” pumas out on the prowl in the West End. It's a sharply dressed Persian at The Vault drinking “Goose.” It's the staff of Style Weekly sneaking out for a three-martini dinner after getting this rag to press, and it's my bartending brethren sucking down Jameson wherever it's free. Richmond can sit down at the table with any city and hold its own in a game of Quarters.
Be proud to be a drinker, and more importantly, be proud to be a Richmonder. You teetotalers can piss off … or move to Fredericksburg.
Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback consumes and slings drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at www.jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @Jackgoesforth. Have a question or comment for the bartender? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.