José Andrés and Restaurateurs Around the Country Feed Furloughed Federal Employees
As the current government shutdown becomes the third longest in U.S. history, restaurant owners are stepping up to help furloughed workers who will continue to be salary-less for the foreseeable future.
On New Year's Day, Indianapolis restaurateur Neal Brown posted on his Facebook page, "If you know someone affected by the Gov. shutdown, let me know. We'll feed them for free until they get paid again." According to IndyStar, Brown says the offer still stands at all of his restaurants in the area, including The Libertine Liquor Bar, Ukiyo, and Pizzology, and "extends to immediate family members of affected individuals."
The government shutdown, which began on December 22, has affected roughly 800,000 federal workers spanning nine departments, TIME reports.
Unsurprisingly, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated chef José Andrés is among the restaurant industry leaders who've stepped up to help individuals working without pay. Even before the shutdown officially began, the Jaleo chef offered free lunch to federal employees who would potentially be affected.
"I will offer again Free Sandwiches to the poor men and women of the federal government, republicans and democrats, at every restaurant of mine in DC for lunch until they get paid again!” he tweeted. (Andrés said "again" because he made the same offer during the 2013 shutdown.)
These offers aren't simply symbolic gestures—federal employees have actually been benefiting from them.
Zaytinya’s general manager, Farhad Haq, tells Washington's Top News that the D.C. restaurant has been busy every day since Andrés' announcement. At Zaytinya, affected individuals can get free chicken schwarma sandwiches seven days a week, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.. (Each of Andrés' restaurants have offers during these windows, from free pulled pork sandwiches at America Eats Tavern to pan con pollo at China Chilcano.)
Food service establishments have been among the hardest hit by the shutdown. Restaurant and café closures at many federal parks and museums, including all 17 Smithsonian locations and the National Zoo, have had a dire impact.
“The cafe is unfortunately shut down because of the government. That is going to be lost revenue until they can get their act together and act like grown-ups and work together,” Dolcezza co-owner Robb Duncan told Eater. (The modern coffee shop/bar is located right outside of the Hirshhorn Museum.) "...It sucks for everybody. But I guess being connected to the government, you kind of go with the good and the bad and this is definitely one of the bad."
Restaurants in the same neighborhood as usually-popular national museums have been affected by decreased foot traffic, too.
In Colorado Springs, Poor Richard's Downtown is giving free meals to furloughed employees and their families.
In Florence, Kentucky, Smokin' This and That Barbecue is chipping in, too.
“When I was a kid growing up, this is what you did when someone was down and out, you helped them,” owner Guy Cummins told WLWT. “So we're feeding government employees until they go back to work. However long it lasts, it lasts.”
The Indy Star reports that 42-year-old Andrea Dayharsh, who works at the Equal Employement Opportunity Commission, was one of the twenty-five or so people who took Brown up on his offer to eat for free at his Indianapolis restaurants. On January 4, she posted on Pizzology's Facebook page: "Gratefully anticipating a slice of cheese pizza and, maybe, a soda, we were THRILLED when our waitress told us we could select anything from the menu. Even better, she suggested we go ahead and get larges so we could take some home for dinner."