Next month's Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend -- including the 25th annual Mr. MAL Contest -- is guaranteed to be the wildest in recent memory, occurring just days before Barack Obama takes office as the nation's 44th president.
''I know a lot of [leather] people who are coming just to be part of that,'' says MAL's MAL Chair Patrick Grady, referring to Obama's inauguration, which will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 20. Grady expects MAL 2009, produced annually by the Centaur Motorcycle Club during Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday weekend, to be even more festive and popular than usual. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend MAL 2009, held from Jan. 16 to 18.
Yet, despite horror stories reported in the local press that District hotels may be collectively sold-out ahead of the historic inauguration of America's first African-American president, the leatherfolk won't be left out in the cold.
MAL revelers who long ago booked rooms at the Washington Plaza host hotel -- some as far back as January 2008 -- should not encounter any problems with their reservations, assures Grady. Aside from his MAL affiliation, Grady also works for the Plaza's parent company, RB Properties Inc. The Plaza, at 10 Thomas Circle NW, has been the site of most of the weekend's spontaneous socializing since 1996.
''[The Centaurs] have a contract with the Plaza until 2010,'' says Grady,
adding that the organizers have also secured a block of rooms at the Doubletree Hotel near the Plaza at 1515 Rhode Island Ave. and at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel at 14th and K Streets. The latter sits next door to Almas Temple, where most official Leather Weekend events occur, including the Mr. MAL Contest, held Sunday, Jan. 18.
Leather Weekend attendees will be checking out of their hotel rooms Monday morning -- unlike years past, Inauguration Day means there will be no extensions. An informal survey of several local properties shows that latecomers may still find accommodations for MAL weekend, but that vacancies -- and bargains -- vanish by Jan. 19.
''It's going to be an exciting weekend for sure,'' says Grady. ''People are excited because of Obama.''
Another twist for MAL 2009, and again due to the Obama inauguration, is that while Leather Weekend attendees will not likely have rooms past Monday morning, they may be downing cocktails far later than D.C.'s usual 2 a.m. cut-off for bars and clubs. On Dec. 2, the D.C. City Council passed emergency legislation allowing all city restaurants to stay open around-the-clock, and bars and clubs to serve alcohol until 5 a.m., from Saturday, Jan. 17, until Wednesday morning, Jan. 21. It will be up to the establishments themselves as to whether they will actually stay open that long -- and up to Mayor Adrian Fenty to sign the legislation.
The Green Lantern's Greg Zehnacker, for one, says his club, a block from the Washington Plaza at 1335 Green Court NW, plans to stay open later.
''Will we make it to five? Maybe, maybe not,'' says Zehnacker, adding that he appreciates the flexibility the expanded hours will give his club, during what is traditionally one of its biggest weekends of the year.
Zehnacker considers the drinking extension a boon to public safety.
''It will allow people to drink and go home more at their leisure instead of slamming down their last drink at last call and leaving all at once, increasing noise on the streets.''
Management at the DC Eagle, on 639 New York Ave. NW, which like the Green Lantern sees a boost in traffic during MAL, is also excited about the ability to stay open later. Just how late, however, depends on customer demand and safety, ''as well as the health of my staff,'' says the Eagle's owner Bill Cappello.
The Washington Plaza's bars are likely to stay open later as well, notes Grady. And the MAL Reaction Dance, with DJ David LaSalle from Provincetown, Mass., will be held at Apex, 1415 22nd St. NW, which will stay open until at least 4 a.m.
Grady, chair of Leather Weekend, betrayed no sense of concern about MAL's crashing into Inauguration Day festivities. Instead, his main concern is far more pedestrian: ''I just hope the weather holds, that it's not too cold.''
For more information about Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2009, visit www.leatherweekend.com.