- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

The presidential inauguration’s extensive security measures have become a logistical nightmare for caterers serving parties for the city’s elite along the parade route Thursday.

Because of heightened security, deliveries must stop at 7 p.m. tomorrow, compared with 6 a.m. the day of the inauguration as in past years. That means caterers must deliver all of their food to the office buildings and store it overnight in rented refrigerators, on massive pounds of dry ice, and in borrowed space at nearby restaurants.

“We’re scrambling to make everything work,” said Jeff Judy, one of the owners of Federal City Caterers. “It’s not easy.”

Still, caterers have to pull off top-notch feasts serving Washington’s power brokers, political heavyweights and corporate bigwigs as they dine and schmooze in offices overlooking the parade route — ideal locations for those not attending the actual inaugural festivities outside.

The caterers have to be certain that the beef tenderloin is safe and that the mini quiches don’t spoil. Some caterers are eliminating breakfast party staples, like gourmet omelettes.

“All these major corporations are entertaining congressmen and anyone they can lasso in — they want to bring as much power into their event as possible,” said Steve Jerrick, general manager at Sara McGregor’s Capitol Catering in Alexandria. “You don’t want these people getting sick.”

Sara McGregor’s Capitol Catering has rented six massive refrigerators from Signature Special Event Services in Frederick to accommodate its four fetes ranging from 200 to 1,200 partygoers in buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The company two weeks ago reserved the refrigerators, each of which is about three times the size of a residential refrigerator, in anticipation of the extensive security. But other caterers didn’t plan that far ahead.

Signature Special Event Services started receiving calls last week from frantic caterers.

“Everyone needs additional refrigeration,” said Cris Leatherwood, general manager. “We’ve been tapped out for a few days.”

The company’s 30 mega, three-door rental refrigerators on wheels are sold out.

Capitol Catering will use 600 pounds to 700 pounds of dry ice, as well. It will be packed in 40, 6-foot-tall stainless-steel carts, transforming them into makeshift refrigerators.

Capitol Catering also is parking refrigerated trucks outside the restricted parking areas near McPherson Square, and is wheeling food down the street. Mr. Jerrick says his staff will be at a security checkpoint at 5 a.m. Thursday to cart the food to a nearby office building.

The delivery restrictions likely will result in traffic jams at loading docks tomorrow night. In many cases, different companies are catering different parties in the same building.

Much of the equipment and party supplies already have been delivered and are being stored at the offices. But the food has to be prepared as late as possible.

“Secret Service and Homeland Security are really making it tight on us this year,” said Paul Watts, vice president of operations for RSVP Catering. “This goes against our grain to do something so far ahead. There’s a freshness factor.”

The caterers have had to adjust menus, eliminating or paring down the selection of cold foods. RSVP Catering, for instance, is not offering omelette stations and has cut back on dairy products.

The Fairfax catering company is handling six parties on Pennsylvania Avenue and has rented seven refrigerators from Rent-A-Center to keep the food from spoiling.

To keep the ice for drinks frozen, the company is spreading about 200 pounds of dry ice among six stainless-steel carts, each of which will hold about 200 pounds of regular ice.

Mr. Watts said the most hectic part — figuring out how to store all the food — is finished.

“Right now, I have to put together a plan to keep my people fresh,” he said. “We’re going to be putting in some hellacious hours.”

Occasions Caterers will store food at restaurants and delis in the buildings where the company will be catering events.

Officials at the D.C. caterer, which is handling 12 parties to 14 parties that day, secured deals with the restaurants last week after they realized security was not going to be relaxed.

Occasions Caterers did not have to rent additional refrigerators and doesn’t plan on storing food on dry ice, said co-owner Mark Michael.

The company will have a stash of party basics such as cups and plates in storage along the parade route in case items run out, Mr. Michael said.

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