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Page last updated at 03:11 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009
As it happened: Obama inauguration



Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant, Washington DC
The Obama family can now get free food at Ben's Chili Bowl

By Max Deveson
BBC News, Washington

My mission was simple.

While my colleagues dressed up to the nines to mingle with the beautiful people at the inaugural balls, I was to hit the bars of Washington DC to find out how the equally-beautiful, but less well-connected people were celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Fortunately, months of studying polling data, combined with a fair amount of research into DC's bar scene had given me a good idea of which parts of the city I should be concentrating on.

The backbone of Mr Obama's electoral coalition was the African-American community; so the first stop on my Obama bar-crawl had to be U Street in Shaw, the beating heart of Black DC.

Round the block

Kent Robinson
Everywhere you look you see people of every race and nationality, all of them looking forward to the future
Kent Robinson
The most famous hang-out on U Street is Ben's Chili Bowl, which has been serving chili dogs to discerning Washingtonians since 1958.

The restaurant recently put up a sign announcing that the Obama family were the only people - apart from long-time patron Bill Cosby - who could eat free there; and Mr Obama himself visited earlier this month.

The line for Ben's stretched round the block when I got there, and the bar next door - imaginatively named "Next Door" - was also packed with revellers.

Inside the bar, I spoke to Kent Robinson, 42, an international trader.

"This is a beautiful evening," he said.

"Everywhere you look you see people of every race and nationality, all of them looking forward to the future."

Also in the bar were Sherienda Smith and Brenda Thomas, who were visiting the city from Cincinnati and San Francisco respectively, and staying with their long-time friend Ludlow McKay.

Brenda Thomas,  Ludlow McKay, Sherienda Smith
Brenda, Ludlow and Sherienda were heading for a house party
They were dismissive of the inaugural balls, saying: "Who wants to pay a lot of money to hang out with people you don't know?"

"We may have something to celebrate tonight, but the economy hasn't changed - who can afford to go to a ball?"

After the bar, they were off to a series of house parties, one of which they invited me to; I made my excuses and left, however, intent on my mission.

Urban hipsters

While the bars and restaurants of Shaw were pretty busy, there were no repeats of the scenes here on election night, when U Street was solid with cars honking their horns, and the pavements were packed with cheering Obama supporters.

I decided to head to 18th Street in Adams-Morgan, to see whether Mr Obama's other core constituency - urban hipsters - were taking their celebrations to the streets.

Wendy, Courtney, and Steve at the Toledo Lounge, Washington DC
Wendy, with friends Courtney and Steve: "Bars are more fun"
In summer, the pavements of Adams-Morgan teem with bright young things looking for Eritrean food, Irish beer or dark dancefloors.

But here too, Obama-supporters were staying indoors, perhaps mindful of the below-freezing temperatures outside.

Wendy, 27, Courtney, 24 and Steve, 26, were on their way into the Toledo Lounge, home to one of DC's best jukeboxes, when I caught up with them.

They were out toasting their new president, but like the people I met in Shaw, were scornful of the fancy inaugural balls taking place across town.

"Bars are more fun," said Wendy.

"The people who go to the balls are more into networking - around here, people are more likely to talk."

"It's funny though - on a normal Tuesday night, people in Adams-Morgan would usually be freaking out, having fun. It's almost like they're more reflective tonight, because of what happened earlier today."

Although the bars of Washington were full of Obama supporters celebrating, the mood on the streets was not as joyous as it had been on the night Mr Obama won the presidency.

But this slightly subdued atmosphere is probably due less to the serious tone of Mr Obama's speech than to the icy winter weather.



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