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The 2013 Furlough's Effect on Restaurants


DonRocks
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I'm hearing yes, and my hypothesis is: government shutdown / psychology.

If I were a government worker on furlough, I wouldn't be spending a single dime that I didn't have to. Face it, eating in a restaurant of any kind is a luxury that most of take for granted. Until you dare not. Besides, there are a lot of empty offices downtown at this particular moment. Anybody whose livelihood depends on the government, however seemingly remote, is suffering along with everybody else.

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I'm the non-furloughed spouse and I spent 20 minutes online trying to find the lowest price on deodarant. We're eating beef heart stew for dinner this week. Next up is chicken livers, which was $1.75 at the bethesda market on Sunday.

We definitely aren't spending any money we don't need to. I skipped the Penn Quarter Farmers Market last week and that is probably my favorite market.

I'm sure we aren't the only ones who are being super conservative.

I think they are all idiots...Sigh.

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I'm unemployed at the moment.

The boy works for an agency that has some no-year money, so he hasn't been furloughed yet. 3 weeks they think.

We're trying to spend as little as possible. Sure, we have savings, but who knows how long this will go. And who knows how long until I am employed again. My job is quite dependent on grant money. Ah, the joys of working in arts and culture in this economy. And we both have health issues that we can't really ignore, but that do cost money.

We haven't given up eating decently. We haven't given up drinking decently. But we are being a lot more economical than we were 6 months ago. And we are working through the freezer and the wine rack and the beer stockpile...

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If I were a government worker on furlough, I wouldn't be spending a single dime that I didn't have to. Face it, eating in a restaurant of any kind is a luxury that most of take for granted. Until you dare not. Besides, there are a lot of empty offices downtown at this particular moment. Anybody whose livelihood depends on the government, however seemingly remote, is suffering along with everybody else.

The ripples are reaching far and wide, well beyond those directly losing income due to the government shutdown.

I think this whole mess is beyond shameful.

The Congressmen moving the WW II Memorial barricades and giving the park rangers guff particularly made me disgusted.

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The Congressmen moving the WW II Memorial barricades and giving the park rangers guff particularly made me disgusted.

That made me so mad that I sent nastygrams to both ABC and NBC for covering it as a feel-good story. The very folks who have taken away my funding, who are about to furlough my husband, who have furloughed my best friend, my favorite college bud, both of my next door neighbors, and so many other friends walk out there and talk about how "the government" can't deny "the greatest generation." GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

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Speaking as someone who survived the previous shutdown (I was, after all, a government contractor, and unlike government employees, I actually *did* get hosed for a month!), I'm pretty sure that everyone will look back upon this as a mere blip in time.

No, I don't have fortune-telling skills, but I don't think "they" will let the pain last too long. This is a good gut-check in terms of saving for hard times. I know it doesn't feel very good right now, but everyone will be okay. Promise!

Some restaurants had their slowest day since *Hurricane Sandy* today! I know this for a fact.

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I'm lucky in that all of my contracts had previously obligated funding, so I can continue work. Too many of my friends and neighbors are not so lucky.

I originally put the betting line at a week. Revising that to bet that they'll put together something in a bundle with the debt ceiling. So I think the feds will be out until mid-October.

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This shutdown seems more serious than 1995-6. 

Yes, it does.  Particularly with the debt ceiling fight riding on its heels.

(And I'm glad I wasn't the only one irate about the photo op at the WW2 memorial.  I was talking to someone who went for the "feel good" element, and I asked why she thought all the cameras were there to capture it.  She changed her mind.)

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No, I don't have fortune-telling skills, but I don't think "they" will let the pain last too long. This is a good gut-check in terms of saving for hard times. I know it doesn't feel very good right now, but everyone will be okay. Promise!

Federal employees have had their pay frozen for the past three years.  Many of the same people who are now shut out of work without pay had already been furloughed previously for days or weeks this calendar year due to the sequester.  There's only so much belt-tightening people can do.

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Federal employees have had their pay frozen for the past three years.  Many of the same people who are now shut out of work without pay had already been furloughed previously for days or weeks this calendar year due to the sequester.  There's only so much belt-tightening people can do.

Furloughed without pay? Because in 1994, I (vaguely) remember that federal employees (but *not* us contractors) got paid for the time they were furloughed. Is this no longer the case?

I lost a month's salary. It didn't change my life, but it wasn't fun, and there was the ongoing stress (refer to the 9/11 attacks) of not knowing when, or if, it was going to end). Very stressful indeed - not knowing is the worst part - you don't know if you can take a vacation, or commit to something for a few days, etc. All you know is that you might be called back to work on a moment's notice; or, you might not be.

Last night was a subtle reminder of just how big a player the federal government is in the DC area. When restaurants are *that* affected on the first day, that's saying something.

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Furloughed without pay? Because in 1994, I (vaguely) remember that federal employees (but *not* us contractors) got paid for the time they were furloughed. Is this no longer the case?

I lost a month's salary. It didn't change my life, but it wasn't fun, and there was the ongoing stress (refer to the 9/11 attacks) of not knowing when, or if, it was going to end). Very stressful indeed - not knowing is the worst part - you don't know if you can take a vacation, or commit to something for a few days, etc. All you know is that you might be called back to work on a moment's notice; or, you might not be.

Last night was a subtle reminder of just how big a player the federal government is in the DC area. When restaurants are *that* affected on the first day, that's saying something.

If you are furloughed due to the shutdown, the only way you get "back pay" is for Congress to authorize it legislatively.  That is what happened in '95-'96.  It could happen this time, but the pundits are saying that it is far from guaranteed - due to the same hard-headed, short-sighted mentality that has caused the shutdown in the first place.  This Congress does not seem to understand the world of hurt they are in, public opinion-wise - or they don't care.  Not sure which is worse.

So far, I am excepted (meaning that I work, and I will get paid, but pay will be delayed until who knows when), but I am the only income in our family right now (Jason is still waiting for security clearance to start his job, and the shutdown isn't going to make that happen any faster), so even a delayed paycheck is painful because we have been dipping into our savings bit by bit since we moved back to DC.

We may still go to our cheaper neighborhood haunts every once in a while while this is going on (you HAVE to get out of the house sometimes), but we are definitely thinking about our spending much differently.  The priority now is being able to pay rent - everything after that is day to day.

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Furloughed without pay? Because in 1994, I (vaguely) remember that federal employees (but *not* us contractors) got paid for the time they were furloughed. Is this no longer the case?

I lost a month's salary. It didn't change my life, but it wasn't fun, and there was the ongoing stress (refer to the 9/11 attacks) of not knowing when, or if, it was going to end). Very stressful indeed - not knowing is the worst part - you don't know if you can take a vacation, or commit to something for a few days, etc. All you know is that you might be called back to work on a moment's notice; or, you might not be.

Last night was a subtle reminder of just how big a player the federal government is in the DC area. When restaurants are *that* affected on the first day, that's saying something.

Congress voted to give the federal workers their back pay last time (the last two times, 1995-96).  In the current environment that led to this, I seriously doubt federal workers are going to get back pay.  Plenty have already lost money this year from the sequester-related furloughs.  
 
It is stressful not knowing if you will get paid and when you will go back to work.  That is why people are so worried.  Some contractors can continue to work.  I know one contractor who was told not to come in but is still getting paid, and he's pretty embarrassed about that when talking to non-essential government workers, who are not getting paid.  
 
The fact that the climate is so unstable and uncertain and people have already seen their pay shrink before this would certainly account for people not wanting to go spend money in restaurants or on anything they don't need.
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I didn't think it would happen (surely our Congress could not be so short-sighted & petty?) until I went out yesterday & the Ft. Belvoir commissary was closed. I can shop somewhere else, but what about the people who work there, & the rotting meats & veg? & all the other hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are labelled 'non- essential'- this is true FUBAR, & I am depressed about the state of our country. We see a much larger impact here than the rest of the nation does, & we are more focused on politics (as depressing as that is), I wish I could have more faith in the future...(& I realize that I'm leaning dangerously towards political argument here, but dammit, people, wake up! I also realize we can't do much until the next elections, since (like it or not) these are our elected officials.).

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The effect of the furlough resulted in empty restaurants the first night, semi-empty restaurants the second night, and a rebound effect this weekend, where restaurants were extremely crowded, but check averages were quite low - people are going back out, but aren't spending as much.

My advice to restaurateurs seeing this effect is: do nothing and ride it out. Mentally prepare yourselves for higher check averages in the upcoming week or two if the furlough ends, and a return to normal occupancy.

The orifice has spoken.

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DR, are you really calling yourself an orifice? I would like to be optimistic, but until I hear that the Belvoir commissary is open again, I'm reserving judgment. I wish I had confidence in my elected government (I have voted in every election since I was 18), I worry about the world my kids will have to work & live in.... a lot of folks are still clueless, or just in denial...I'm glad I don't own a restaurant, those folks really have it rough...

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The bizarre thing is that IIRC, the Commisaries are not using appropriated funds and are actually a revenue generator used to fund recreational activities on most bases.

Neither of us is directly impacted by the shutdown.  We had dinner at Hong Kong Palace tonight and usually tables are pretty full with a small line by the time we finish.  Tonight, while it was far from empty, tables were available.

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Locals pulled together in Del Ray this weekend for Art on the Avenue.  We ate at a relatively deserted Taqueria Poblano last night where we were told they had one of their best days ever on Saturday during the event.  Fingers crossed for some sense on the hill and a speedy solution.

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Based on what I saw at my local market, and anecdotal evidence from several friends who work them, this was an absolutely awful weekend for farmers markets.

We didn't go to any markets this weekend.  We restocked minimally at Wegman's (bread, bananas, and cauliflower) and we need yogurt from TJs.  Everything else will be out of the pantry for a while.  (Let's just say we aren't confident that the back pay will come through or when...)

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We didn't go to any markets this weekend. 

We made our usual run (ok, walk. I don't run with bags of food. Really, I don't run much at all.) to the Columbia Heights farm market. I find their prices as good or better than the grocery store.

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We made our usual run (ok, walk. I don't run with bags of food. Really, I don't run much at all.) to the Columbia Heights farm market. I find their prices as good or better than the grocery store.

The prices at the Bethesda market are usually the same or better than I can do at a store, at least for meat I'm willing to eat. And when the freezer and cupboard are empty we will go back.  We may be a little tired of roasted chicken, ground beef and eggs soon though!

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The prices at the Bethesda market are usually the same or better than I can do at a store, at least for meat I'm willing to eat. And when the freezer and cupboard are empty we will go back.  We may be a little tired of roasted chicken, ground beef and eggs soon though!

Yeah, I have that "meat I'm willing to eat" issue too.

Maybe we need a "Eating down the pantry" recipe exchange. When I go into eating down the stockpile mode, I worry that my husband will get tired of enchiladas and tamales and soup. He would never get tired of roasted chicken, but I don't actually have any chickens to roast right now.

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More good (?) news today from Caboose Café in Del Ray where I got lunch for myself and a friend.  They said last week was hopping while people didn't know what to do with themselves, and now that the second week is upon us, they expect, but have not yet seen, a slowdown.  We also ate lunch Friday at Thai Royal in Old Town and it was absolutely mobbed, by a nearby convention, I think.  If Congress gets itself in gear, our local restaurants in Alexandria may be OK.  Small consolation to those in DC, I know, but I'm trying to be positive. 

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Things seem to be a little less bustling out here in the Reston/Herndon area.  As a family not directly impacted by the shutdown, we're actually trying to eat out more to help the restaurant economy.   Tonight is "take a furloughed family to dinner" night for us. 

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Yesterday I was talking with a friend who is still working in the L'Enfant Plaza area. She said half of the lunch time places are closed and Starbucks shuts down right after lunch with 2 people working instead of the normal 6. 

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Friday evening while my dog was being serviced at Friendship Animal Hospital in Tenleytown, I had an hour or so to kill so I thought I'd have a quick dinner somewhere. I thought Guapo's, which I have some residual affection for, having lunched there many times with colleagues when I worked in the neighborhood in the mid-90s. Line out the door at about 7:30. I don't think anyone should stand in line to get in to Guapo's at any time, but I guess AU students don't have very good taste and aren't much affected by the shutdown. Masala Art also had a line to get in, more justifiably according to reputation; I've never been. I ended up having a pretty dismal bowl of pho at "Eurasian Noodles and Tapas", I think the place is called, at the corner of Wisconsin and Albemarle. No line to get in, but the place was very busy. I should have gone to Crisp and Juicy, but I really wanted a glass of beer. At about 8:30 there was a shorter queue at Guapo's, but still people were waiting to get in. What a world.

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Our bartending school has been running a "furlough special" discount.  (good for everyone except members of congress) ;)   Actually quite a few furloughed people have taken advantage of it, including govt workers and contractors.  One of the furloughed students is taking a free refresher having taken our class last year and worked his first event at last years 2 day inaugural balls that we staffed.  First event--> he made bank that weekend.  Now he picked up a part time gig at a slowish hotel bar, which is a great way to start.

Per our conversations some are fed up with the problems.  Some of the furloughed folks are long time feds, some newish.  They all want to earn extra money.

They have gotten a price break on classes and it appears that at least they are having fun while in class and doing something more constructive than totally killing time.  A few were spending a lot of time at bars during the first couple of days!!!

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From the District:  Eating Down, Drinking UP

This article is from the National Journal:  http://www.nationaljournal.com/budget/the-government-shutdown-is-making-d-c-residents-drink-more-20131016?mrefid=HomepageRiver

Per information from the District tax office:

  • $217 million lost every day from federal and contractor wages in the D.C. metro area that have either been deferred or cancelled. This amounts to 17.6 percent of the region's economy.
  • $44 million decrease per week in economic activity in the District.
  • $6 million decrease in District tax revenue per week.
  • 7 percent decrease in restaurant traffic in the first week of October, compared with the same week in 2012.
  • 13,000 fewer hotel bookings in the first week of October, amounting to an 8.3 percent decrease (or $2 million less) from 2012.

The mayor's office is still finalizing numbers on the increase in alcohol-tax revenue. However, it did confirm that there was a 3 percent increase in restaurant beverage sales, which primarily consists of liquor, during the first week of October from the first week of September.

(how about that less hotel visitors and drinking was still up)  (also less workers in the city for happy hour and drinking was still up)  ;)

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Friday evening while my dog was being serviced at Friendship Animal Hospital in Tenleytown

Sorry, I'm just laughing my ass off at the idea of your dog up on the skids like in a garage, getting his oil and other fluids changed and paws checked.

I can say on my visits, Passenger - despite some conferences next door - seemed slower when I was there. And while driving through DC, it seemed oddly quiet.

I AM SO GLAD TO HAVE Y'ALL BACK (he says as a government contractor).

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