May 10, 2010 at 9:45 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Obamas visit gayborhood in dinner jaunt

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama rode past four gay bars and two gay restaurants Friday night on 17th Street, N.W., when Secret Service agents drove them to the upscale Komi Restaurant, where the first couple dined for two hours.

A doorman for JR’s, a gay bar located a few doors down from Komi, said the Obamas arrived in an SUV that was less conspicuous than the presidential limousine. But he said a crowd quickly gathered outside the restaurant and along the street.

The first couple arrived at the restaurant at 7:08 p.m., according to Black Enterprise Magazine correspondent Joyce Jones, who traveled with the presidential motorcade as part of the press pool that accompanies the president on in-town excursions.

She reported that the Obamas “emerged from Komi at 9:13 and were greeted by crowds that had waited for two hours to see them. But by then it was dark and black vans blocked most of the view. Still, they cheered, screamed and clapped.”

Jones said she and other reporters in the press pool estimated at least 200 onlookers gathered to see and cheer the Obamas.

Washingtonian Magazine has listed Komi as the city’s “Number 1 Very Best” restaurant for the past two years. It’s located on a stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle that has the city’s highest concentration of LGBT bars and restaurants and a high concentration of gay residents.

Jones reported the presidential motorcade drove from the White House to 16th Street, N.W., where it traveled north before turning left on R Street and left again on 17th Street. In so doing, it drove past the gay bars Cobalt and 30 Degrees and the gay restaurant Level One, which are in the same complex at 17th and R streets.

On their way toward Komi, the president and first lady rode past the gay establishments DIK Bar, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, Jacks, and JR’s, which is located about three doors from Komi. The White House billed the restaurant visit as one of an ongoing series of “date nights” the Obamas have experienced since moving into the White House in January 2009.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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