We all learned what it's like for Washington to turn into Shutdown City this week. The closed zoos and memorials, hapless tourists, and legions of "nonessential" federal employees suddenly with too much free time on their hands is as jarring as our earthquake-ravaged Washington Monument.
To offer some respite for the lost souls of the furloughed, dozens of D.C. bars and eateries are doing what they do best: offering up a smorgasbord of shutdown-themed food and drink deals that would make even the most jaded bureaucrat consider the upsides of an unpaid vacation.
A free sandwich at chef Jose Andres's establishments from 3 to 5 p.m. for any patron with a government ID was one of the best food deals we spotted. The promo is good every day of the week until the furlough ends, and is even valid for "to go" orders, though only three sandwiches are featured (flauta de jamon serrano at Jaleo, the chicken shawarma at Zaytinya, and torta pancita at Oyamel).
"Obviously not being able to work is a tough thing in this city," said Stephanie Salvador, a spokeswoman for Andres's chain of restaurants. "This is Andres's way to provide a little something" to furloughed patrons.
Some joints don't even care if you're furloughed or not. "We're trying to appease the masses as much as we can," said a worker at Union Pub, where $3 "shut it down" shots of whiskey are being offered to government workers and anyone else wishing to partake in the furlough commiseration.
Tortilla Coast, a Capitol Hill staple for interns and veterans alike (but mostly interns), is allowing customers to start drowning their sorrows with happy-hour specials that begin at noon. Use your credit card to guzzle some $6 margaritas or $3.75 drafts and devour some $4 choice appetizers. The deal is also good at TC's Dupont Circle location.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is offering happy-hour specials from open until close during the shutdown for anyone who walks in because "we all suffer. Not just federal employees," said Mark Kutcher, a manager at the venerable D.C. institution. Everyone, that is, except lawmakers, whom Kutcher somewhat jokingly scapegoated. "If a congressman or senator came to the bar and I recognized them, I would certainly try to make them pay double," Kutcher said.
Other specials were simply too generous to last. Z-Burger promised free burgers to feds down on their luck, but the owner reneged on the deal Wednesday due to "overwhelming crowds" that caused the restaurant to hemorrhage cash to the tune of about $30,000 a day.Z-Burgers may no longer be free, but most other deals are continuing unabated (except for 9:30 Club's two-for-one "Affordable Ticket Act," which we totally missed the boat on).
How long are these furlough freebies and specials going to last? That's as hard to predict as the the shutdown itself, and few store managers are willing to proffer a guess."We really don't know" how long the specials will continue, Kramerbooks' Kutcher said. "Nobody knows what the heck's going on up on the Hill."