Alexandria rolls out the welcome mat for inauguration

Alexandria rolls out the welcome mat for inauguration
File Photo

By Melissa Quinn

With thousands expected to flock to the nation’s capital to mark President Barack Obama’s second inauguration Monday, city businesses are putting out the welcome mat for the impending visitors.

Local hotels, restaurants and shops already have seen a bump in reservations and sales, said Merrie Morris of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. Luring potential tourists across the Potomac during the festivities has been one of the organization’s goals in the lead-up to the inauguration, she said.

“We’re positioning Alexandria as the perfect base for the complete inaugural experience,” Morris said. “We’re finding that it gives people in the region a reason to come here.”

Inaugural events begin today in Washington and run throughout the weekend. While the Port City is not hosting any official events, businesses like Bittersweet Catering have been courted to provide fare for the festivities.

“The inauguration brings people from all over the country and all over the world, and it’s something we’re very proud to participate in,” said owner Jody Manor.

This year, the restaurant and catering business will provide its services for the Servant Forge Humanitarian Inaugural Ball. Though this is the first time Bittersweet will get in on the action, Manor believes an event this substantial will prove a boon for all city residents — not just business owners.

“The visitor economy is really important to the city,” he said. “Visitor spending can lower everyone’s property tax by 7 cents. Everybody benefits.”

As area hotels prepare to break out their no-vacancy signs, ACVA officials hope the city’s annual Restaurant Week will entice visitors into dropping by local eateries. They have capitalized on the first family’s connection to Alexandria, highlighting the restaurants and boutiques that the Obamas have visited since moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The president and first lady celebrated their anniversary in 2011 at Restaurant Eve, dining at the famed Pitt Street eatery. And the couple headed to Alexandria’s Vermilion to celebrate Valentine’s Day last year.

Union Street’s Zoe Boutique recently began selling Tracy Reese, one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers. And the shop offers copies of the blouse donned by the first lady on the cover of the inauguration edition of Washingtonian magazine.

Even Bo, the first dog, has swung through Alexandria, getting his coat groomed at the Olde Towne School for Dogs.

“This makes [visitors] feel like they’re part of the event,” Morris said.

Though the city likely will not see the economic impact of the inauguration for at least a month, Morris and Manor are confident the uptick in visitors will have positive effects.

“At this time of year, any event like this is always a good thing,” Morris said. “It’s a total win-win for the city.”