As government shutdown looms, small business owners in DC brace for impact

A government shutdown won’t just affect federal workers who won't get paid. Businesses that rely on those employees being at work in D.C., Maryland and Virginia are bracing for an economic hit.

Some of these businesses have been in the position before. The most recent government shutdown happened five years ago in 2018. On Pennsylvania Avenue, just blocks from the Capitol, there’s real concern over what this could do to small businesses.

Long-established Capitol Hill businesses like the Hunan Dynasty Chinese restaurant — a popular spot with top members of Congress, and the Hawk & Dove Restaurant, have taken a hit from government shutdowns before. They serve Hill staffers, lobbyists, and tourists who might wind up staying home if the federal government closes.

"The shutdown …  The last one was what, a couple of weeks? Usually, people come at the beginning of it, but if it lasts a long time then people will get nervous and that’ll start hurting business," said Tom Johnson, one of Hawk & Dove Restaurant's managing partners.

"We lost business and the tourists, and the tourists traveling! Yeah, and there’s just not so many people," said Tim Qi with Hunan Dynasty Restaurant. 


Preparing for a government shutdown: What federal employees need to know

Sunday, October 1st is looming over federal employees who may not know what the future holds.

It’s no secret many small businesses and restaurants in the DMV did not survive the pandemic.  

With our area home to more than 160,000 federal workers – members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia told FOX 5 that the loss of those workers and their spending dollars will likely hurt not only restaurants but the entire fall tourism industry. 

"A lot of them, of course, are still struggling to recover from where they were based on the COVID-19 disruption, so this could be a seriously lethal blow," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland).

"If you’re in the tourism business, a hotel, restaurant maybe an outdoor store, this time in the fall is probably one of your two business seasons of the year, and we saw what happened when there was a shutdown in October 2016," added Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).

The D.C. Chief Financial Officer reported the 2018 government shutdown, which lasted 35 days, cost D.C. $47.4 million worth of lost revenue. And the uncertainty among small business owners is real because there’s no telling how long, or how short another government shutdown could last.