Small businesses struggle through shutdown

- As the partial government shutdown rolls on, local restaurants are among those being hardest hit, with some cutting hours and others having trouble making payroll.

“It’s frustrating. You know, it’s like we shouldn’t be going through this,” said Joe Neuman, owner of Sloppy Mama’s BBQ.  Neuman won a lottery allowing him to park his food truck at L’Enfant Plaza this month. Typically it would be big business, he said, but right now there’s no business at all.

“We’re not going to L’Enfant Plaza on Mondays in January because there’s nobody there,” he explained Tuesday night.

Neuman is far from alone. Local restaurants have reported a 20 percent average decrease in sales during the shutdown with some reporting losses as great as 60 percent, according to Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

The numbers don’t surprise Al Goldberg. He’s the founder of food incubator Mess Hall in northeast D.C. and works with dozens of businesses, like food trucks, caterers, and bakers.

“The shutdown is hurting a lot of people,” Goldberg said.

It’s why he and partner Nevin Martell just started a new website, called PayItFurloughed.com. The idea is pretty simple — people go to the site and donate $7.50 for a beer, which can then be picked up by any furloughed federal employee at participating D.C. bars, which then get a little extra business.

“People are buying beers all across the country, even all over the world,” Goldberg said. “Someone from Spain emailed us this morning. Someone from Canada just emailed me a few minutes ago.”

As of Tuesday night, more than 1200 beers had already been donated.

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