Jan 20, 2021 - Economy

D.C. braces for economic hit from scaled-back inauguration

A DC business boarded up days before inauguration.

Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The days leading up to and including Inauguration Day typically generate $31.4 million in additional sales for D.C. businesses — but not this year.

Why it matters: Washington's economy is already suffering from pandemic-induced closures, and could very much use the revelry and tourist dollars that Inauguration Day brings — instead of the large bills that will pile up if there's further mayhem or if visitors continue to stay away.

The Old Ebbitt Grill, which sits along the inaugural parade route, normally sees a “financial windfall” from renting out the restaurant for a private party and welcoming post-inaugural ball guests, David Moran, director of operations for Clyde’s Restaurant Group, tells Axios.

  • This year it will be closed on Inauguration Day for what’s believed to be the first time.
  • A plan to continue with takeout and delivery quickly became impossible due to security fencing and barricades cutting off access to the restaurant.
  • Sister restaurant The Hamilton also shut down last week, representing a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars between the two.

What they’re saying: “I am pretty used to, every four years, doing interviews,” Moran said. “Not this kind of story."

  • "It’s usually about how busy we are and how ... the Ebbitt is part of the culture of the inauguration — and here we are now talking about the exact opposite.”
  • “The closest thing we’ve seen to something like this is 9/11.”

Of note: Sunnyside Restaurant Group temporarily closed two of its Capitol Hill restaurants — Good Stuff Eatery and Santa Rosa Taqueria — last month because they were losing money.

  • During President Trump’s inauguration, Sunnyside's restaurants saw 800-1,200 customers a day; this week that number is around 120.
  • One Sunnyside restaurant — We, The Pizza — remains open, but is doing 55% of the business it did pre-COVID, deputy Sunnyside CEO Micheline Mendelsohn tells Axios.

Plus: While hotel occupancy was at 95.2% during the last inauguration, Destination D.C. expects lower rates this year.

But, but, but: Some hotels are still busy.

  • The Willard InterContinental, blocks from the White House, is nearly 90% occupied, largely due to bookings from military and law enforcement agencies.
  • Even, so, “businesses all throughout the city, including our own, are not expecting to generate the same revenue as years past,” said Janet Scanlon, senior marketing manager for the Willard.
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