Not Out To Lunch: Businesses That Rely On Federal Workers Suffer The Shutdown While the furloughed employees are likely to get back pay, a sandwich shop is not going to get paid for a sandwich not eaten.

Not Out To Lunch: Businesses That Rely On Federal Workers Suffer The Shutdown

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We're going to talk a bit more about the partial shutdown of the federal government, which is entering its third week. We've talked earlier this hour about workers not receiving their pay. But that also means garbage piling up at national parks, taxpayers not getting questions answered from the IRS. We'll have more on that tomorrow. But the shutdown also has repercussions for businesses that federal workers use, like restaurants. This week, Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce checked in during what's normally the lunch rush just outside of Denver.

DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: The Denver Federal Center in the suburb of Lakewood houses 28 government agencies in 44 buildings. It's a big complex. And call around those offices right now...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You have reached the public room at the Bureau of Land Management.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Due to the lapse in appropriation...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Due to a lapse in funding of the federal government budget, I am out of the office.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We are prohibited from conducting work as federal employees.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: But we'll return your call upon our return to the office. Thank you, and sorry for the inconvenience.

BOYCE: Colorado has about 6,500 Department of Interior employees, 3,700 Department of Agriculture employees, 1,400 Department of Transportation workers. A lot of them are out of work and are not going out to lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: You're up on one.

BOYCE: It's being felt.

NICK ANDURLAKIS: I think we've lost, you know, maybe 20 percent of our business, 25 percent of our business.

BOYCE: Nick Andurlakis runs Nick's Cafe down the street from the federal center.

ANDURLAKIS: I've had the cafe for 32 years. It's an Elvis cafe.

BOYCE: Boy, is it - walls adorned with photos and Elvis album covers. And Nick's specialty sandwich...

ANDURLAKIS: We have the Fool's Gold Sandwich. It's a peanut butter, jelly and bacon sandwich.

BOYCE: He says he normally sells a dozen of those Fool's Gold Sandwiches, give or take, every day. On this lunch day, it's pretty quiet. Andurlakis says his slower business is probably partially from a government shutdown. A lot of people are also still out for the holidays, right?

ANDURLAKIS: So it's hard to say.

BOYCE: He says everybody suffers a little with these government shutdowns. Still, he thinks they usually happen for a reason, and he supports the cause of more border security.

ANDURLAKIS: I'm the kind of guy that wants the country to be safe. I can understand where the president's coming from.

BOYCE: He calls the shutdown a little political fistfight.


BOYCE: Right across the street from the federal centers, it's the local Tokyo Joe's franchise. Cooks pull from plastic bins of fresh stir fry vegetables near a line of grilling chicken breasts. Manager Jolie Voss says 30 to 40 percent of her customer base comes from the federal center.

JOLIE VOSS: You kind of just get used to seeing the same faces. Bob from accounting's going to come in and get his white chicken bowl. So to not see those faces as often - you really notice.

BOYCE: Managing a franchise, she's expected to meet certain sales quotas, and her business is down thousands of dollars this week.

VOSS: We have to start sending people home earlier. Some people are losing hours. We're starting to waste more food product, which means we're spending more money on things that we're just not going to go through. And, in general, it just decreases the morale of my store.

BOYCE: Meanwhile, Washington is keeping the federal government closed, Voss says squabbling over petty affairs. For the customers who are in Tokyo Joe's, the bright side - maybe they get through the line faster. Jeda McKenney is sitting at a table outside. He's not a federal employee, and he's not paying much attention to the shutdown.

JEDA MCKENNEY: Yeah, I guess when stoplights stop working and, you know, they don't shovel my snow, I'll - you know, I'm that guy.

BOYCE: Those, of course, not federal obligations - point taken, though. None of the lunch customers I spoke with had really noticed any effects of the shutdown. But again, the businesses federal workers use - they certainly are. And while the furloughed workers are likely to get back pay, a sandwich shop is not going to get paid for a sandwich not eaten.

For NPR News, I'm Dan Boyce in Lakewood, Colo.

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