Crystal City restaurant owners are already starting to feel the squeeze that comes with sequestration in the form of dwindling lunch crowds.
“Absolutely, I’m concerned,” said Jim Madden, owner of the Crystal City Sports Pub, which has been in business since 1994. “Quite a bit has happened here already with the Navy Yard moving and BRAC. We would be additionally concerned with any kind of cutbacks that would come here.”
The Crystal City area has traditionally hosted many government offices and related businesses, so when the government cuts back, local businesses feel it.
Madden said that sequestration — automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts agreed to by Congress to force the passage of a budget — is another blow to his business, which has already tried cutting prices to attract customers.
“The daytime lunch business is still suffering,” Madden said. “There are some smaller businesses that don’t open for lunch at all anymore.”
The New Yorker Deli, a staple in Crystal City since 1978, is also feeling the pinch.
“Even just this week everyone is scared and not coming in,” said Samuel Hay, an owner in the family-run business that has several Arlington and Washington locations.
Business was robust from 1978 all the way to 2005, he said, but since then, revenue has dropped 70 percent. The restaurant previously made $3,000 to $4,000 in a day, and now it is looking at $1,000 a day, Hay said.
“Even before Congress has approved anything, people have been reacting. We have six other restaurants in the area and they all say it has been very slow,” Hay said.
He also suspects more workers are opting to bring food in from home in an effort to stay frugal with the prospects of furloughs in the future.
“It’s pretty bad industry to be in right now,” Hay said.
The Crystal City Business Improvement District, or BID, a public-private partnership formed in 2006 that works to promote business in the area, has been working to transform the neighborhood into more than a lunchtime venue.
“A lot of our efforts have been focused on creating a community nightlife,” said Angela Fox, president and chief executive of the BID. “Certainly, I think our retailers will struggle until the turnaround happens.”
Venues such as the Synetic Theater, which is now performing The Tempest, are thought to draw before-dinner crowds to area restaurants, Fox said.
The BID has also put on special events, such as the Beer/Wine 5Ks that took place in January and the upcoming Art Underground open house on March 16, which showcases local artists and which Fox hopes will become competitive to Old Town Alexandria's Torpedo Factory Arts Center.
“We want to give people something new and interesting to do,” Fox said. She hopes the BID's efforts will cause Arlingtonians considering a trip to Washington for a night out to stay in the community.
Meanwhile, restaurants like the Crystal City Sports Pub can only brace for whatever happens next.
“We continue to remain hopeful that it will come back,” Madden, “We will try and do the best we can till then.”
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