For the first week of the government shutdown, restaurants were mostly focused on offering deals in support of government workers furloughed by the cuts. But as the shutdown drags on with no end in sight, restaurant owners are starting to get more concerned on the impact an ongoing stalemate will have on business.
"We're starting to hear some things that would make any trade association worried," said Kyle Rees of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. "We're hearing of dinner and lunch services slowing down a bit, and larger parties that may have booked going on to cancel." Restaurants such as Foggy Bottom's Ris have reported slower service than usual, Rees said. "I don't think there's really hard data out there...but there's something weird in the air." The change has also shown in those restaurants with more reservations than usual available on OpenTable. Restaurants on the Hill are adversely affected as well — Toscana Cafes owner told NBC4 that business right now is down about 25 percent, and Beuchert's Saloon also said business has taken "a bit of a hit."
There's also the worry that, the longer the shutdown drags on, the more it will convince would-be tourists to cancel their plans to come to D.C., given the closure of National Parks and other government-run sites. Rees expects restaurants could start to see any impact from that possibility if the shutdown drags on for several weeks.
But some restaurants popular with tourists are still doing fine for now. A spokeswoman for Founding Farmers, for example, which gets much of its business from concierge referrals, says that about 80 percent of its business on an average week comes from new customers, which often includes tourists. Last week, that number was down slightly, to 75 percent, but that difference could easily be attributed to a slowdown in summer tourists — the restaurant has generally been as busy as ever, she said.
Right now, those restaurants most negatively impacted by the shutdown, Rees says, are those who had to shut down completely. That includes places like the Mitsitam Cafe, the well-regarded restaurant within the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian. RAMW member Guest Services, which manages concession stands within D.C.'s parks, as well as the restaurant Indigo Landing , is estimating a loss of about $100,000 per day during the shutdown, he said.
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Mitsitam Cafe [Photo: Smithsonian]