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March 07, 2013

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


President Obama shares a toast at his January inauguration celebration;
courtesy of wikimedia.org

Whether it’s the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling or sequester, we have been bombarded with one potential economic apocalypse after another, mainly as a result of the self-absorbed, dysfunctional reality TV show that is the U.S. government. These days, politics is not about what you have to say, but how loud you say it, and even this doesn’t matter, as the other side most likely isn’t even listening. In an attempt to bridge the divide and save the country from the never-ending cacophony of juvenile talking points, President Obama decided to take a cue from the meetings industry and do something unheard of in Washington—meet.

Yesterday evening, President Obama met with 12 Republican senators for dinner at the prestigious Jefferson Hotel, just a few blocks north of the White House. The event was a clear shift in strategy for the president, as it followed weeks of ineffective campaign-style rallies meant to pressure the GOP into raising revenues in order to avoid the $85 million dollar sequester cuts. The senators, who were assembled by moderate Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) at the president’s behest, represented potential partners with which a deal on the country’s finances could be struck. Working behind the scenes and facilitating this colossal meeting of the minds was the seasoned staff of the Jefferson, who from all accounts put on a flawless event.

“The pressure didn’t affect our staff very much, as they are used to handling high-profile events,” says Alicia Rodrigues, the property’s marketing manager. “The guests seemed to enjoy themselves and we received a few complements on the food from some of the senators as they left.”

According to Rodrigues, the White House, which has used the Jefferson a number of times for fundraisers and campaign rallies,  had informed the hotel of the event nearly two weeks in advance, but revealed who was actually attending only four days before it happened. As you can imagine, the preparation was immense, as swarms of Secret Service agents inspected the building, interviewed the staff and set up security positions. With the input of the White House, the hotel’s catering staff carefully set up the decor, making sure everything was perfect. Finally, after all the guests had arrived, they were given a menu from Plume, the hotel’s award-winning, onsite restaurant, which included French delicacies such as Rabbit Charcuterie, Foie Gras Terrine and Moulard Duck Breast.


The Jefferson Hotel’s Parlor Boardroom, where yesterday’s dinner took place.

Although a financial breakthrough remained elusive, most media outlets reported that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and that the talks were constructive. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), as quoted in an article from The Hill, said “It was a very positive meeting, it really was,” while another article from Politico quoted Graham as saying the experience was “Great!” Perhaps the president’s charm, and fact that he picked up the check from of his own pocket, helped smooth things over. Adding a meal, even an enjoyable one, to the deficit probably wouldn’t have gone over well with that crowd.

As for the Jefferson and its staff, the event was just another one in the books. The 99-room property, which has seen its fair share of events since it opened in 1955, maintained its position as one of the premier meeting locations in Washington, D.C., and potentially set the stage for an end to the fiscal insanity.

When asked why the hotel draws so many government meetings, Rodrigues casually replied “The Jefferson’s historic nature and nostalgia, its intimate spaces and the fact that its named after Thomas Jefferson simply make it the perfect location for any government function!” The president seems to agree.

—Diego Vallejo

Here’s a look at the Jefferson Hotel’s event spaces, beginning with the Parlor Boardroom, which was the setting for the president’s dinner with the senators.

Parlor Boardroom

The Parlor Boardroom, designed to accomodate up to 18 people.

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse, one of the hotel's three restaurants, features a 1923 skylight that creates an airy setting.

The Private Cellar

The Private Cellar, the hotel's private dining room, can host up to 20.

The Gallatin Room

The Gallatin Room is the hotel's largest meeting space and can accommodate up to 80 standing or 40 seated.

The Gallatin Room

The Gallatin Room set up with round tables.

Parlor BoardroomThe GreenhouseThe Private CellarThe Gallatin RoomThe Gallatin Room

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