Chinatown, Penn Quarter Restaurants Prepare for Inauguration Crowds

Howard University News Service

Millions of people hoping to feel the excitement of a changing nation are expected to flood the District of Columbia Tuesday, as Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th U.S. President.

City officials estimate that between 2 million and 5 million people will crowd into the District for the celebration. In popular tourist areas like Chinatown and neighboring Penn Quarter, where many of the visitors are likely to dine, restaurants and workers are preparing for an onslaught of customers and crowds.

Jennifer Clardy, a 41-year-old bartender at The Source, a Penn Quarter restaurant at 575 Pennsylvania Ave., is planning to leave her Alexandria, Va., home two-and-a-half hours earlier than normal to get to work on time.

“I’m not looking forward to fighting the crowd,” Clardy said. “I’m anticipating the worst.”

Her boss, manager Adam Crocini, isn’t worried about how he’ll get to work but about how the crowds will respond to the chaos, which will likely include limited dining availability.

“This is our first inauguration, so I can’t predict how the crowd is going to react to the availability of the restaurants,” Crocini said.

The Source, a fairly new addition to restaurants in Penn Quarter, has only been in business for a little over a year and serves American and Asian cuisine. The restaurant has extended its normal Saturday hours and will remain open throughout dinner on Saturday, re-opening Sunday for lunch and dinner, a day most businesses in the area, including The Source, are closed.

At Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza in Chinatown, manager Abbie Fekade-Sellassie, is also preparing his restaurant for the swarm of people. The five-year-old restaurant, at 901 F St. N.W., specializes in pizza and pasta dishes. It averages about 2,100 customers during a normal week; during the inauguration the crowd could be considerably larger.

Fekade-Sellassie is making sure all of his workers are available and says the restaurant will operate at “full capacity. All hands [will be] on board.”

In addition to making arrangements to handle the crowds, many restaurants are also adding specialty items and beverages to their menu in honor of the inauguration. Recognized for its family atmosphere, Ella’s is offering special red, white and blue ice-cream for customers to express their patriotism while satisfying their taste buds.

Other Chinatown restaurants like District Chophouse Brewery, at 509 7th St. N.W., and Austin Grill, at 750 E St. N.W., have made specialty drinks commemorating Obama’s inauguration and other famous American events.

The District Chophouse Brewery has a beer called the “Obama-bock” while the Austin Grill has two drinks – Waterloo, and Stars and Bars. The restaurants are also extending their hours.