At inauguration parade time, it’s not so much who you are, but where you live and work that matters. It can be the difference between standing on the curb in the cold weather or nibbling on caviar while hobnobbing in the warmth of a cozy office or home as the parade unfolds.
People in law firms, corporate offices and residences lining the parade route from the Capitol to the White House have prime perches for watching a long-standing American tradition, and even with the tightest security cordon in history, they’re making the most of it with bird’s-eye view parties.
“It’s all about location and when you’re on a parade route and you have full view — if you’ve got that space — flaunt it,” said Susan Lacz Niemann, one of the owners of Ridgewells catering company.
That’s exactly what Kim Perret and others at Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan law firm intend to do — for yet another inaugural year — despite increasing security requirements imposed by the Secret Service at the first post-Sept. 11 swearing-in.
Security tightened this year
The restrictions are greater this time around, she said, adding that the parking garage in her building will be closed, surrounding streets will be open only to limited traffic and more security checkpoints set up.
“We’ve had several communications from the Secret Service that security will be even tighter,” said Perret, a marketing director. “And we’re going on the premise those can change weekly, daily.”
Still, she added, “It would be an opportunity missed if you were on Pennsylvania Avenue and didn’t celebrate the inauguration.”
Mark Smith, the firm’s executive partner, said the Secret Service didn’t ask them to do anything “unreasonable” — locking their balconies, for example, is something they were required to do back in 2001.
“In ’89 and ’93, the president was walking to the limo,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll see that again. We’re in different times.”
The parade begins at 2 p.m. and lasts about two hours, with floats and marching bands from around the country.
Andrew Ness, managing partner at Thelen, Reid and Priest, another law firm located within spitting distance of the parade, said there was a noticeable boost in security precautions in 2001 when fences and security check points were put in place. This time, the loading dock and garage of the building where the firm is located will be closed and the firm had to submit a guest list to authorities earlier than last time.
Partisanship to keep some away
Security restrictions, however, are not necessarily solely driving people to stay away from VIP parties along the parade route for the 55th presidential inauguration. “Partisan hangover from the election is more of what we’re seeing,” Ness said. “There’s more of an undercurrent of some Democrats not wanting to participate.”
Ellie Schendell, of Alexandria, Va., isn’t leaving her home inauguration day even though her firm is throwing a party overlooking the festivities.
While safeguards need to be taken to protect the president, she said, “excessive ones that penalize the public” are maddening.
“The subway station is closed, there’s no street parking and the garage won’t be open,” said Schendell, a legal secretary for Shearman and Sterling. “I won’t go through it. It’s insanity. A mild inconvenience is one thing, but to prevent the flow of traffic for people who are coming in for their jobs is unacceptable.”
For caterers working parties along the parade route, the challenges this time will be far greater, says Ridgewells’ Niemann. The final words on street closures and delivery deadlines are yet to come, but some caterers will work through the night and into the morning of inauguration day to avoid some of the hassles.
One of Ridgewells’ corporate luncheons is herb crusted tenderloin of beef in a port and sun-dried cherry sauce, and well-heeled clients don’t want dried out meat.
Timing is everything
Over the years, caterers have had to carefully time their food deliveries and be aware of street closures around the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, but this time around, a whole slew of new security precautions including background checks performed on staffers, has been thrown into the mix, she said.
“We go through incredible security measures,” she said. “It used to be, ’here’s a badge’ and let them go in. Now it’s name, age, rank, social security number” they want to know, she added.
However, the Residences at Market Square, an apartment complex on the parade route with 105 balconies, hasn’t gotten word of balcony restrictions, according to Tanya Rabe, the building’s general manager.
“They can have company on their balconies,” she said, adding emphatically, “but that can change. That’s today.”