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D.C. Bars And Restaurants Feel Shutdown Squeeze

Oct 8, 2013
Originally published on October 8, 2013 3:14 pm

Federal employees aren't the only ones feeling the heat in Week 2 of the government shutdown.

D.C. bars and restaurants are also getting nervous about just how long their customers will be out on furlough — and how that might dent their bottom line. While attendance at local happy hours was up in the past week, according to some reports, there are serious concerns about whether that can last with so many government workers sent home.

"We're all suffering when part of the government is shut down," said Mark Kutcher, manager of Afterwords Cafe, located in Washington's Dupont Circle. "It's stressful."

The cafe, which is part bar and part bookstore, is offering an extended happy hour that anyone can enjoy. But members of Congress are required to pay double. "They don't deserve a special break for not doing their jobs," Kutcher said.

After the beginning of the shutdown last Tuesday, dozens of D.C. bars and restaurants began offering shutdown specials to patrons. Most are targeted at government workers, requiring a government ID to qualify for an extended happy hour or half off a burger, but some specials are open to anyone who wants to take advantage.

As the first week of the shutdown came to a close, Kutcher reported that business isn't suffering just yet. Greg Jasgur, bar manager at nearby Pizzeria Paradiso, agreed. "So far, it's been good for business," Jasgur said, citing the fact that the restaurant has been busier in the past couple of days.

Pizzeria Paradiso is also offering drink specials: $2 pale ales to those with a government ID.

But Jasgur worries about the future if the shutdown drags out for a few weeks, as some are predicting. "We might get to the point where people are trying not to spend as much money," he said.

Jasgur and Kutcher both say their specials aren't necessarily designed to bring in more business. Jasgur said they wanted to "extend some goodwill" to the community during a time where everyone is suffering. In the long run, though, the need to bring in more customers, by any means necessary, might intensify if the shutdown drags on.

Stan Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the Capitol Gains & Games blog, said in an interview with NPR's Mara Liasson last week that the impact on local businesses in D.C. and elsewhere put additional pressure on lawmakers to pass a continuing resolution during the 1995 shutdown. "After about seven days ... people who do business with the government indirectly, the coffee shop across from an IRS office in Fresno, for example, all started to feel the pain," he said.

Kevin, a contracted tech writer at a federal agency who declined to share his last name, says that although he has taken advantage of happy hours in the past week, he's "terrified of how long [the shutdown] will last."

He just moved into a new apartment and may not be able to make rent if the shutdown continues much longer. "This would be the last week I could justify frequent happy hours," he said.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.