News & Politics

Hotel Workers’ Union Calls for DC Hotels to Close During Inauguration, but That Seems Unlikely

“No worker, Union or non-Union, should have to risk their life to go into work," a union official says.

A Proud Boy outside Harry's Bar. Photograph by Evy Mages

One week before the inauguration, the union UNITE HERE Local 25, which represents more than 7,000 hotel workers in Washington, has called for hotels in the region to “close immediately” in anticipation of potential violence.

“We continue to hear reports of armed, far-right militias planning to threaten Washington in the days ahead,” writes John Boardman, the union’s executive secretary-treasurer, in a statement on Wednesday. “Given the danger and fluidity of this situation, the best way to guarantee the safety of hotel workers and District residents is to keep these groups out of the city and out of its hotels. That is why, unless hotels in the immediate Metro Area are hosting the National Guard or other security personnel, they should close immediately.”

The statement comes a few hours after Airbnb’s announcement that the company has canceled all existing reservations in the DC-area during inauguration week and blocking any new ones. “We are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration,” reads the press release. Guests will be refunded and hosts will be reimbursed for the cancellations.

On January 6, many hotel guests across the region were part of the mob that attacked the Capitol. (Two hotels, Hotel Harrington and Eaton DC, closed in anticipation of the rallies.) One video that circulated on Twitter showed a group in Trump paraphernalia hanging out in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. Maskless rioters were aggressive guests in some cases, ignoring Covid-19 policies, getting into fights, and clashing with police. The night before the riot, a fight broke out in front of the Line hotel in Adams Morgan, which released a statement acknowledging the altercation and assuring that “to our knowledge, all Proud Boys have been removed from the property.”

“We watched in horror as insurrectionists terrorized the District, putting our members, as well as the broader public, at risk of violence and exposure to COVID-19,” writes Boardman of the January 6 chaos, adding: “No worker, Union or non-Union, should have to risk their life to go into work. Unfortunately, that is the situation we are now faced with. When workers are safe, the public is safe. That is why we urge every hotel in the region to do their part in protecting us all.”

It’s a unique situation for hotels to be in, particularly considering the fact that many are hosting media, security personnel, and others who are here to work inauguration-related activities. Washingtonian has been calling hotels to ask whether they have plans to close next week.

Hilton hotels, like Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites, which reportedly hosted guests who were part of the pro-Trump mob last week, will remain open. “Our hotel teams, especially those in Washington DC, are very experienced and have a long history of successfully managing through major public events,” writes a Hilton spokesperson. “They continue to review hotel safety and security procedures, and their preparation is well informed and mindful of current events. We have no plans to cancel hotel reservations and look forward to welcoming the many Inauguration-related suppliers, government officials, medical professionals, media representatives, military and law enforcement who are traveling to Washington DC.” Another Hilton spokesperson wrote: “It is also important to point out that Hilton and our hotel teams do not adopt or endorse the views of any guest.”

Marriott, too, said that they will remain open through the inauguration. “We of course have the safety of our guests and associates top of mind given the recent events,” writes Marriott public-relations vice president Sara Conneighton in an email. “We are monitoring the situation very closely and have operational and security plans in place.”

The Willard hotel has no plans to close. “Situated along the presidential inaugural parade route, we have had the great privilege of watching the newly elected president walk past our doors on their way to The White House for over a century,” writes the hotel’s senior marketing manager Janet Scanlon in an email. “We are looking forward to celebrating this momentous occasion (in whatever form it takes this year) once again.”

According to staff at the front desks of the Hamilton, the Grand Hyatt, and the Watergate, hotels are still accepting reservations on January 19 and 20; the Hay Adams and the Hyatt Place in Georgetown are booked on those dates. Other hotels did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Luke Mullins contributed reporting to this story.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.