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Washington D.C. braces for Trump supporters and protesters

Workers prepare for the Presidential Inauguration for incoming US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 5, 2017.    SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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Roughly 240,000 tickets have been distributed for the inauguration. Factor into that some 150,000 protesters turning up for Women’s March on Washington scheduled for the following day, and Washington D.C. will be welcoming two very large, and very different, crowds of people into the city next week.

That creates both an opportunity and a challenge for businesses. While both Republican and Democratic money is green, as political activists look to put their money into businesses that support their politics, things can become complicated.

Hats and politics have always gone well together, something especially noticeable in 2016 thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s red-and-white “Make America Great Again” campaign caps. But protesters are also getting into the political hat market.  

Allison Sogen has been selling her hand-knitted hats, called “pussyhats” because of their cat-shaped ears, on Etsy as part of a viral knitting project. Think of it as some old-timey trolling of Trump. The hats became so popular that Sogen actually had to take down her post, shortly after it went up. 

“The first time I posted them, I posted them in the morning, and by noon that day I had 55 orders,” she said.

Sogen said she’s working as fast as possible to ship the hats in time for the march. She plans to make five hats a day for the next ten days.

Trump’s unexpected victory caused some brief concern for local hotels as Hillary Clinton’s supporters canceled their reservations. But those rooms were quickly snapped up by Republicans like Nick DiCeglie.

“You know on election night as soon as Hillary Clinton conceded, 4 a.m., we were booking our hotel room and airline flights,” said DiCeglie, who is on the executive committee of the Florida Republican Party.  He and his wife plan to attend several high-dollar GOP parities — the kind of contract any hotel or ballroom would love to have.

“The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is hosting a Florida sunshine ball,” he said, “We might possibly be going to the Texas Ball on Thursday night, we’re kind of undecided.”

While it’s good for business, having so many liberals and conservatives in proximity to each other sometimes means walking a fine line. 

Jared Rager owns the Redwood Restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of D.C., as well as two bars on Capitol Hill. He says he’s happy to welcome both Republicans and Democrats to his restaurants, but that does not include all groups with a political agenda.

“I mean, you don’t want to unwittingly support a group that doesn’t share, even remotely, your same morals or sense of values,” Rager said.

Rager points to a local Italian restaurant that had to apologize after unknowingly booking a white nationalist event. Similarly, an Arlington ballroom is also facing backlash after declining to host the so-called “DeploraBall,” a far-right coalition of Trump supporters.

Still, Rager says his business is hospitality, not politics.

“I mean, listen, it’s not our general practice to screen events to see if somebody has a bad voting record,” he said. “We’re not going to refuse to host their fundraiser. That’s not really the business we’re in.”

There is another trend which Rager has noticed — a way politics has been good for business.

“There is more alcohol being consumed since the election, across the board,” he said. “It’s hard to say if it’s celebratory or commiserating.”

With so many people packing into town, getting a dinner reservation is going be a nightmare. So, whether celebrating or protesting, most people won’t have the luxury of being too picky about where to eat and drink. 

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