The Willard hotel creates Inauguration scotch bar

For those who didn’t receive invitations to any Inaugural parties, at least there’s the Inaugural parade. But for those who get turned away from viewing the parade, what’s left to do?

There’s always hotel-lobby hopping.

Hotel lobbies have a rich history in Washington. The term “lobbying” is said to have originatewd from the people who would loiter in hotel entrances to exercise influence over the politicians who would pass through.

For Inauguration, not only politicians but also the throngs of A-list celebrities scheduled to be in town will surely pass through, linger, sit, rest and lobby in the lobbies of the city’s hotels. On top of that, hotels will play host to many of the balls, parties, galas and concerts celebrating the Inauguration of President-elect Obama, making for more hotel-lobby traffic.

What does that mean? Good people-watching.

A spokeswoman for the famous Willard Intercontinental Hotel — where lobbying is believed to have started in Washington — said the hotel is expecting 5,000 people in its building on its busiest day during Inauguration.

The Willard even provides cocktail service right from the lobby couches and wingback chairs. Meanwhile, a newly opened scotch bar sits just off the lobby’s floor, set back from the hotel’s famous Round Robin bar.

“I like to call it the usquebaugh bar, which is Gaelic for ‘water of life’,” bartender Jim Hewes said.

Hewes offers his patrons more than 100 scotches, ranging from “flowery,” lighter selections to “pungent and manly” options, he said.

People who come to his hotel — even just for a drink or some lobby-loitering — will almost always have a sociable experience, he said.

“At the Willard and the Round Robin bar, the gentle art of conversation is alive and well,” Hewes said.

A few blocks north of the Willard, The Loews Madison Hotel has gone so far as to encourage non-guests to visit its lobby.

“Visitors to Washington, D.C., that are not staying at Loews Madison Hotel do not need to feel left out of the Inaugural keepsakes,” reads a statement announcing its mock White House press briefing room.

A presidential lectern stands in front of a blue curtain in one of the hotel lobby’s corners. Cardboard cutouts of Obama and Vice President-elect Biden flank the podium. Anybody can mount the lectern and have a friend snap some photos.

The St. Regis Hotel’s lobby is located just two blocks from the White House, so when the Inaugural crowds get tough, it might have an open couch cushion. And — who knows? — maybe you’ll blend in enough to get offered one of the complimentary Bloody Mary samples available to the hotel’s Inaugural guests.

But if you want to experience recent presidential history, head to the lobby of the Hay-Adams Hotel, just on the other side of Lafayette Square from the White House. Obama and his family stayed in this hotel before moving into their new home. The wood-paneled lobby will provide an opportunity to get into the new president’s mind as he takes on his role as leader of the free world.

It will also offer a place to rest your feet.