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On Small Businesses Struggling During the Government Shutdown

Communities around shuttered national parks and around federal worker hubs are recording losses during the government shutdown.

While most of the county tries to figure how the government shutdown affects them, small businesses around national parks and federal worker hubs are growing all too familiar with the consequences of dried up funding.

At Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah, businesses that are usually flush with campers and tourists during October have seen revenues fall by at least half since the park closed 11 days ago, reports the New York Times. “They're killing us on the biggest, last month of our season,” Lou Rossi, owner of Wildcat Willies Ranch Grill & Saloon, told the paper. The October surge is vital for businesses to endure the slow winter, making the shutdown all the more untimely. “I've noticed up to $2,000 a day in sales walking out the door,” said manager of the restaurant, Shandee Davis, in an interview with the St. George News.

Like most other businesses, Wildcat Willies is reliant on some 10,000 daily visitors pacing through the park each day. But as the shutdown stretches out, would-be tourists are canceling their travel plans, costing those businesses an estimated $3.5 million in visitor spending since the park shuttered its gates.

The Zion Park Inn recorded an estimated $19,000 in lost business as travelers called in to cancel their stay during the first week of the shutdown. “The phone's still ringing, unfortunately,” said Dean Cook, manager of the inn. “We thought of not answering it for a while.”

But the problem isn't just in small towns around national parks.

In Washington, D.C., where federal employees count for 12.6 percent of the workforce, small businesses tied to government contracts, lunch-going workers, and visiting tourists are equally pinched. “I'm juggling funds now, just to keep afloat,” said Craig Stowers, CEO of Ramarc Solutions, a provider of networking hardware and services, in an interview with the Associated Press. A quarter of the company's revenue comes from the government. The D.C. Chamber of Commerce, in turn, has emailed a letter to some 5,000 businesses to forward along to Congress, calling on them to “stop the madness.”

But it's not all blue.

With national museums and monuments closed, private museums are absorbing deflected tourist traffic and enjoying a time of gain.

Capitalizing on this, the Destination D.C., a tourist agency in the city, has begun a campaign to get visitors to the few centers of interest still open during the shutdown. “This is a very vibrant, live city and so we're out here letting everyone know what different museums and attractions and restaurants and activities people can do while they're here,” Theresa Belupsi, Vice President of tourism and visitor services at Destination D.C., outside the independently-owned (and open) Newseum, told NBC Washington.

In a video produced by the agency, Maurice Harcum of Ben's Chili Bowl says he won't stop serving the restaurants signature dish: a chili dog that has received the notice of both President Obama and former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

“We've been serving half-smokes here at Ben's Chili Bowl for 55 years,” he says. “And we're not about to stop now.”

First photo via (cc) Flickir user NCPA

Second photo courtesy of Lou Rossi

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