Greek and Italian cuisine wasn’t the only thing on people’s minds on Wednesday night as Zesty’s restaurant, located at 4382 Main St. in Manayunk, held a presidential debate watch party.
The watch party, hosted by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., was open to the public, inviting both Democrats and Republicans for a debate and discussion with fellow neighbors and leaders in the 4th District.
Waiters and waitresses squeezed through the crowd as Zesty’s teemed with close to a hundred people, filling the tables and crowding the available standing room.
The debate watch party had a strong showing of African Americans between the ages of 30 and 60 within the Philadelphia area.
The crowd was enthusiastic about the debate as the two candidates went head-to-head on domestic issues, cheering and making their opinions heard. In moments when the candidates provided sarcastic or criticizing remarks, reactions erupted in the form of clapping and cheers
The crowd cheered when President Barack Obama criticized Gov. Mitt Romney’s tax plan and definition of a small business.
“Under Gov. Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses,” Obama said. “Donald Trump is a small business. I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small.”
The crowd laughed when moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor of the PBS NewsHour, told both candidates that they were already over the first 15-minute segment.
Another moment that received a strong reaction was when Romney interrupted Lehrer after Obama spoke of the deficit and job growth, comparing his approach to Romney’s.
“The president began this segment,” Romney said, “so I think I get the last word.”
As the debate went on, however, participation from the crowd became less frequent and the debate became background noise as conversations within the crowd focused on what the candidates had already talked about.
Even though the debate lasted only 90 minutes, there were topics that viewers said that had not been covered.
Criminal defense attorney Nicole Cross said she believed the topic of entitlement was omitted.
“The American people have a contract with each other,” Cross said. “To take care of each other, to invest for the future of this country in the face of international competition. In the face of economic crisis around the world.”
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who sponsored the event, commented on the civility of the debate. “I think this is round one,” Jones said. “There will be three more rounds at least, so I’m looking for it to getting a little more rough and tumble.”
Jones, however, said he thought this debate was very substantive. “I think it was a clear distinction between the Romney vision for the United States of America and the Obama vision.”
Amanda Wilkinson, manager of Zesty’s, said this was a great way for the restaurant to support the community. “Anything the community wants to be involved with we want to be involved with too,” Wilkinson said. “If people want to come here and show respect for our country we would never have a problem with that and we would really support it. And I think it really gives us a chance to network with other figures in the community.”