Inaugural Luncheon Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Concerns

December 29, 2020 by Dan McCue
Table setting for the luncheon following the Jan. 20, 2009 swearing in of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. (Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies)

WASHINGTON – The more-than-century-old tradition of feting the new president with a post-inauguration luncheon is the latest casualty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which has hosted the lunch, with limited exception, since 1953, said Tuesday that given uncertainties about the status of the outbreak and the nearness of the Jan. 20 swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden, it is no longer feasible to plan a scaled down version of the gathering.

“When the JCCIC first organized in June of 2020, its membership committed to planning ceremonies that were as safe and traditional as possible,” said Paige Waltz, spokesperson for the committee, in a written statement. “The health and safety of all guests attending the ceremonies have remained a top priority throughout the planning process.

“In light of the ongoing pandemic, the JCCIC, in consultation with the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has made the decision to not move forward with hosting the traditional inaugural luncheon,” she said, adding, “additional details regarding the various inaugural ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol will be forthcoming.”

Since the late 1800s, the luncheon has evolved into a traditionally lavish affair honoring the new president, vice president and guests following the swearing-in ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol.

Recent iterations have included a three-course meal and musical performance in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall for the new Cabinet, the Supreme Court and congressional leadership.

The cancellation of the luncheon is only the latest change that has been made in the 59th presidential inaugural to reduce crowd sizes and prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus that has sickened over 19 million and killed more than 334,000 people in the United States.

The inauguration ceremony, which has in the past included nearly 200,000 tickets for attendees, this year will be reduced to the sort of numbers associated with a State of the Union address.

The committee said it will not be open to the public, and each member of the 117th Congress will instead be provided with a ticket for themselves and one guest.

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