Federal and state officials have authorized more than 20,000 National Guard troops to protect D.C. as the city readies for pro-Trump protests ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, and at least one local pizzeria is pitching in to feed them.
On Wednesday, January 13, soldiers in camo fatigues spread out across the floors of the Capitol Visitor Center as the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time. Republican representatives Vicky Hartzler (Missouri) and Michael Waltz (Florida) were photographed distributing pies from the We the Pizza nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. (For the record, both Hartzler and Waltz voted against impeaching Trump for inciting a riot inside the Capitol last week).
Reps Michael Waltz and Vicky Hartzler handing out We The Pizza to some troops pic.twitter.com/ckjXRStnMD— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 13, 2021
There are at least a thousand, probably more, National Guard troops all over the Capitol Visitor Center, Emancipation Hall, and surrounding hallways. They’re sleeping in reception areas, the cafeteria, the entrance to the building. Everywhere. pic.twitter.com/EFvofT8fqx— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 13, 2021
Micheline Mendelsohn Luhn, deputy CEO for the restaurant group that owns We the Pizza, says the pizza shop received the order from a member of Congress and offered to donate as many pies as they sold. All in all, that accounted for 100 pizzas Wednesday, she says, and We the Pizza planned to send another 75 Thursday morning and 75 more the same night.
We the Pizza also has added an option on its online ordering page for customers to donate more pizzas to the National Guard for $12 per pie. Mendelsohn Luhn says the company will match every donated pizza, too. Thursday night, after the first version of this story published, Mendelsohn Luhn said she had also coordinated meals for the National Guard from Buffalo & Bergen, Chiko, Maketto, the Duck and the Peach, District Doughnuts, Pizzeria Paradiso, and the Sticky Fingers bakery.
“These men and women are coming from all over the country to protect not just our Capitol building and our businesses, but democracy,” she says.
Mendelsohn Luhn says even though her family runs a delivery-friendly business, they rely on tourism so much that sales are still down 50 percent from pre-COVID numbers. We the Pizza had to bring in dough from Northern Virginia franchises in Crystal City and Ballston to fulfill the first round of National Guard orders.
“We haven’t been doing numbers like this since March of last year,” Mendelsohn Luhn says. “We had to call two of our staff people in yesterday to make dough for today.”
The executive said last week’s violent riot at the Capitol felt like “a sucker punch” not just as a business owner, but as a part of the neighborhood. “It’s our building,” she says. “It’s our backyard. It holds a very special place in our hearts.”
During the insurrection, she says she instructed a manager to serve guests who refused to wear masks so they could avoid confrontation and get them out of the restaurant as quickly as possible. We the Pizza attempted to stay open during the mob’s breach at the Capitol, but Mendelsohn Luhn says ownership called Ubers for all the employees to get them home safely when the situation “really started getting bad.”
On the night of the riot in the Capitol, chef José Andrés activated World Central Kitchen feed D.C. police and National Guard members late into the night.
Although the National Mall will be closed off during inauguration next week, We the Pizza tentatively plans to remain open for pickups and deliveries as long as drivers can maneuver around extensive street closures.
“We will do deliveries as best we can,” Mendelsohn Luhn says. “If neighbors want to walk in to buy a pie, we can do that.”
This story has been updated to include other D.C. restaurants that are helping feed the troops
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