- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

As tourists from across the country and around the world pour into the District this week, businesses from hired car services to hotels and grocery stores are geared up for an event of unprecedented size.

The presidential inauguration of Barack Obama is expected to draw crowds of 1 million to 2 million people in a single day to a city that hosts about 20 million visitors a year. To prepare, many businesses were forced back to the drawing board to navigate what Destination DC President and Chief Executive Officer William A. Hanbury called “a logistical nightmare.”

This will be the 10th inauguration for International Limousine Service, said President and CEO Richard Kane. Limousine companies often are hired to transport people to and from inaugural balls, both official and unofficial.

“It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve always expected an influx of visitors,” Mr. Kane said.

International Limousine normally starts to get busy a couple of weeks before Inauguration Day, he said, but hired cars have been booked earlier than usual this year.

Security perimeters can make it difficult for hired cars to reach their destinations, but Mr. Kane said he is confident that his clients will get to their celebrations.

Those in the hospitality business have another problem.

“Expect delivery delays,” said Charlie Fisher, vice president of strategic advisory services for James Lee Witt Associates, who was addressing a Greater Washington Board of Trade event in December.

The Hay-Adams Hotel close to the White House has been fully committed since the morning after Election Day, said Douglas Camp, director of sales and marketing.

“With the magnitude of this, you have to be concerned,” he said. “The biggest challenge is going to be the night of the 19th and the morning of the 20th.”

Mr. Camp said the hotel staff is excited to participate, but that inaugural events will need to be carefully choreographed.

Catering services trying to move supplies and staff during the inaugural festivities will need lots of patience until the events culminate Tuesday evening.

“Our main concern is transportation for our employees and our goods,” said Joel Thevoz, a partner in Arlington-based Main Event Caterers.

Main Event is catering three high-profile events Tuesday.

“We’re a medium-sized company, so we don’t bite off more than we can chew,” Mr. Thevoz said.

Having catered events for the 2004 inauguration, he said, Main Event is familiar with the security procedures and road closures, but not with the crowds expected this year.

Main Event is allowing extra time for food and other supplies to be delivered, Mr. Thevoz said, but “the one concern we have is being able to funnel our staff through current channels.”

As for tearing down after the conclusion of Tuesday’s events, Mr. Thevoz said, “I’m resigned to the fact that we won’t be able to get any equipment out the day of” the inauguration.

Supermarkets also face logistics problems, said Safeway spokesman Greg TenEyck. He compared the situation to emergencies such as snowstorms and noted that the District has hosted other large events, but “this poses an unusual challenge to us.”

“We weren’t doing crisis management like we are now,” he said.

Safeway has been in regular contact with city officials as well as the federal government to keep track of road closures, security perimeters and permit requirements for delivery trucks.

Because parking is expected to be a precious commodity for the inauguration, Mr. TenEyck said, “we are concerned that we will not have parking spaces for our customers.”

The stores will be stocked with party platters and heavily staffed, he said, but “I think everyone is going to have to have a lot of patience.”

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