- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

Cheers, fanfare and exploding confetti bombs punctuated the air at the corner of 22nd and M streets NW on Wednesday, heralding the city's grandest hotel opening in years.

"The Ritz-Carlton is the cornerstone of a great renaissance in downtown Washington," exulted William R. Tiefel, chairman of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., as he greeted guests at the outdoor dedication ceremony along with master of ceremonies Paul Berry, hotel owner Christopher Jeffries, general manager James McBride, corporate management partner J. Willard Marriott Jr. and celebrity guest Larry King.

"I've never been at a Ritz where I've been disappointed," Mr. King assured the 350-strong crowd seated outside in the noonday sun, not forgetting to add a plug for the first of many major social events to be held on site: his very own Larry King Cardiac Foundation gala Nov. 1.

With 300 upscale rooms and suites, a state-of-the art sports club and spa, restaurant, shops, a grand ballroom and separate full-service condominium residence wings, the facility is the talk of the town and will likely be so for months to come. Buzz is good for business, of course, which explained why the hosts were buoyed by reports of heavy advance bookings for upscale parties, to say nothing of stays in accommodations ranging from $395 to $4,500 per night.

"A lot of rich people will be staying in our hotel, eating in our restaurants. It's wonderful," Mr. Marriott said.

Deputy Mayor Eric Price and D.C. Council members Carol Schwartz, Jack Evans, Harold Brazil and Linda Cropp showed up for the ribbon cutting and lunch (featuring poached Maine lobster, beef tenderloin and a dessert buffet) along with various PR types, general managers of other Washington hotels, media personalities (Kathleen Matthews, Arnaud de Borchgrave) and other very social folk, including Debbie Dingell, Ann Hand, Marlene Malek, Holly Coors, Esther Coopersmith, Roland Flamini, Vicki Bagley, Wyatt and Tandy Dickerson, Mel Estrin, Sally Chapoton, Carmen and Hal Petrowitz, Denise and Brad Alexander, Margaret Hodges, Debbie Sigmund, Alexine Jackson, Jim Lemon, Gertrude d'Amecourt and Garnett Stackelberg.

Plenty of ladies who lunch, to be sure, though it was anybody's guess how many, will be sweeping in for return engagements.

"They'll come back if there is free valet parking," predicted Jayne Ikard, who made it clear that pricey meals plus $18 car charges were a definite turnoff.

But the Ritz was way ahead on that score.

There will be no parking fees for the ladies, or any of the restaurant's customers, Mr. McBride said.

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