By The Numbers

MULTIMEDIA: What’s a city sound like in a shutdown?

Ariana Tobin Oct 1, 2013

One day after the biggest employer in the nation’s capital shut its doors and sent “non-exempt employees home, Washington’s other businesses are trying to figure out what they’ll do without their regular customer base.

What happens to the sandwich stackers, cupcake bakers, convenience store clerks, and cocktail shakers when a city full of government workers stops coming to work?

That’s the question in downtown Washington, where local businesses faced an afternoon of light foot traffic and quiet lunch hours. We asked what they’ve noticed, and how they’ll cope.

Neil Sharma owns Crown Liquor Store on DuPont Circle, a neighborhood known for its trendy restaurant culture. He said the day has been quiet – too quiet. He took a break from selling a customer a stack of lottery tickets (“Because we’re all going to need these,” she joked) to comment:

Deiv Compton bakes pastries at nearby Hello Cupcake, where he says the day’s specials – vegan coconut and pumpkin spice – stayed on the shelves longer than usual. Fall usually kicks off the stores’ “busy season” of weddings and holiday parties, but Compton does not expect to be baking as many maple bacon pecan cupcakes if the shutdown continues.

Jody Taylor owns the Black Rooster Pub, right next door to the Peace Corps’ headquarters in Washington. Today was “extremely busy,” Taylor said, because most Peace Corps officers came in through the morning to get their affairs in order. When they left for lunch, they stopped by to “have a cocktail.” Taylor “knows this will hurt business,” and he fears it will have repercussions on own staff:

Onye Agu is regional manager of District Taco, a local chain serving Washington’s lunch crowd with three stores and a fleet of food trucks. He’s not too worried at the moment, he says, because he hopes regular customers will track them down to take advantage of their “free taco for affected government workers” deal.

Not everyone is concerned about the immediate effects of the shutdown, especially those who work with “essential” workers. Ronald Carter, owner of The Custom Shop Clothiers, just off K Street sells custom made suits and clothing to the neighborhood’s “loyal” population of lobbyists, high-level executives, and, of course, Congressmen.

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