At the L Street Tavern in South Boston on Sunday afternoon, Governor Charlie Baker leaned across the bar, chin in hand. With shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a Guinness in hand, he looked like a bartender listening to the concerns of patrons who frequent the famed watering hole.
“I don’t think of a D or an R when I vote; I look at the person,” said Jeff McLaughlin, 58, an L Street regular. “I am a Democrat, and I think the way he manages the state financially is terrific.”
Baker, a Republican, had stopped there for a pint after attending the 37th annual rededication of the South Boston Vietnam Memorial in nearby Medal of Honor Park, one of the country’s oldest Vietnam memorials.
“He is the only governor who has ever gone to the Vietnam Memorial rededication,” said former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn, a Democrat and lifelong resident of the neighborhood who was there with family. “That’s the premier event in this neighborhood, and the people here have a strong affection for him because of his reverence for veterans.”
As the first New England Patriots game of the season played on the televisions, Baker walked through the tavern to talk, listen, and pose for pictures.
“Our first question to everybody is: ‘How it’s going?’ ” Baker said in an interview. “What are we doing well? What do we need to do better? A lot of our best ideas have come from those conversations.”
Some cited specific policies in their support of the governor.
“He’s been great to firemen,” said Timmy Geary, 46, a firefighter and paramedic in Duxbury, who grew up around the street from the tavern. “He recently signed a bill for firefighters with cancer, and we recently had a guy on my job who just got diagnosed. He’ll be much more able to offset medical expenses now.”
Others mentioned the opioid crisis, a central focus of Baker’s tenure.
“I’ve coached football across this community for 20 years, and I’ve been to multiple funerals for young kids that I once coached,” said Bob Ferrara, 55, who has lived in South Boston most of his life. “I like him because he’s put the opioid issue front and center.”
Baker has come to the tavern before, famously pouring beers for patrons during his 2014 campaign. This time, when the Patriots scored just seconds before halftime, Baker cheered along, his arm around his wife, Lauren Baker.
“I just wandered in here on the campaign in 2014 and I just really liked the vibe and the people. I’ve made it kind of a regular stop on all Southie events,” Baker said in the interview.
The tavern has served cold beer for decades and is famous for a memorable cameo in “Good Will Hunting,” where Matt Damon’s scruffy Southie genius character meets for drinks with his friend, played by Ben Affleck.
“What you get here are people who are registered and who care. Governor Baker is always welcome,” said Susan Woods, who has owned the tavern for more than 20 years.
As the game resumed, bagpipers who had come for the memorial rededication played in the cramped space, to many cheers.
But although many were fired up about the election, others just wanted a pint.
“I told him I didn’t know if I could ask the governor to pour me a Sam Adams, but he did -- he poured me another beer,” said Brigid Grogan, 29, who teaches in a public school in East Boston.
She laughed and turned to watch the game, her Patriots pride displayed proudly on a long-sleeve T-shirt, her beer in hand, straight from Baker’s tap.Amelia Nierenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AJNierenberg.