Week two into the federal government shutdown, restaurants are still weathering the political storm on Capitol Hill.
A week into the shutdown, a sign outside of Tortilla Coast read, “We’re still open! Happy hour starts @noon today.”
Early and longer happy hours are one way many DC restaurants are attracting customers.
Some restaurants have reported slower than usual lunch hours, while those on federal property have been completely shutdown, says Kyle Rees, spokesman for the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.
It hasn’t been all bad—the first day of the shutdown, several businesses reported higher traffic, as federal employees took advantage of their day off.
“It’s hit or miss right now,” Rees says. “We’ve heard from some members who haven’t noticed a drop in business. Some of our members are noticing a bit slower lunch or dinner service and noting that larger parties were being canceled.”
Most owners are more concerned about the long-term effects than the immediate effects.
“[The first two days of the shutdown] we were busy,” says Catherine Ker, general manager at Bearnaise. “People are out earlier and staying later.” Ker said business was helped by unseasonably warm weather during the first week of the shutdown, an extended happy hour and regular specials. The shutdown was a hot topic of conversation in the restaurant, Ker says.
Restaurants on federal property, forced to close during the shutdown, have likely been the hardest hit. Guest Services Inc., which operates food kiosks on the National Mall and restaurants on other federal properties, was forced to lay off 100 to 120 employees, says Chris Rohr, Guest Services director of marketing and communications.