For local businesses, it’s the big squeeze

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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.

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