WASHINGTON — Typically bustling sidewalks near the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were eerily quiet Wednesday on the first day of the zoo’s closure due to the partial government shutdown.
“We went from having thousands of people every day for Zoo Lights in December to having nobody in January,” said Yael Krigman, of nearby shop Baked by Yael, while looking around at empty bistro tables. “If we lose all of our customers from the zoo, that’s a problem.”
Krigman’s bakery is among a strip of businesses on Connecticut Avenue directly across from the zoo in Northwest D.C.
“We have a lot of chains on this block. So (during) a government shutdown like this, they have thousands of other stores to keep them afloat,” said Krigman, while noting her single location employs three dozen people.
“I have to pay them. I pay them on time. And I have to pay rent. So, I have major expenses and we need — we need to stay in business,” Krigman said.
A visit to the area Wednesday afternoon revealed a welcoming open door at a frozen yogurt shop, but neither customers nor employees were evident. The gastropub Duke’s Counter had a few patrons at the bar. At Cathedral Pharmacy, two workers were busy filling prescriptions, but the counter where passers-by might purchase snacks or tourist memorabilia stood empty.
“We depend on the tourists who come from the zoo,” the pharmacy’s manager said. He preferred not to be identified, but added, “Sales have been going down.”
Despite sales being impacted by the partial government shutdown, Krigman is among many area business owners who are offering freebies and deals to federal workers.
“To my knowledge, it’s not organized. I think we all have the same feeling that the community is very supportive of us, and we want to be supportive of them,” Krigman said.
Asked if she had a message, Krigman quickly responded, “My message is open the government so we can all get back to business.”