The government shutdown, now in its second day, is already leaving its mark on businesses near historic sites in Old City Philadelphia. But it’s not a lack of tourists that could have the biggest impact for some.
Alfonzo Garcia of Mom’s Cheesesteaks, a food cart situated in the shadow of Independence Hall, says the absence of furloughed federal employees, who normally work on and around Independence Mall, is what's hurting his business.
“We can see the difference since yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday, they work half a day; breakfast time it was OK. But after lunch, it was totally dead.”
At midnight on Tuesday, since the U.S. Congress failed to pass a spending bill for the federal government's new fiscal year, non-essential services were shutdown and a number of civilian employees temporarily laid off.
The FBI, U.S. Federal Courthouse, U.S. Mint, General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol all have offices on or near Independence Mall.
Sitting bored and anxious inside the mobile grill, Garcia says the loss of regulars combined with a drop in tourist traffic is having an incredibly bad impact on sales.
“Like about 50-60-percent business is down,” he said.
A few clusters of tourists, some pressing their faces up against the windows of the Liberty Bell Center to try and catch a glimpse of the famous bell, were peppered around the mall on Wednesday morning. However, they were a far cry from the approximate 10,000 visitors a day per day the area typically attracts.
“If there’s not more business, it’s not worth it for us to be here,” Garcia said. “You see me, I just sit here and do nothing. It make me crazy.”
A half a block away from Mom’s, Hapal Rahan stands at the ready inside his halal cart, but unfortunately, there’s no one around to serve. He says a lack of customers could hurt him from buying food.
“No money, what can do,” he asks in a broken accent. “Too slow.”
On the other side of the city, vendors working around LOVE Park, another popular tourist site, say their business has remained steady thanks to the high-concentration of city workers unaffected by the shutdown.
“It hasn’t really broken us yet, so it hasn’t been too bad,” said Hawk Tam of Bubby’s Brisket and Bugsy’s Wieners.
But they’re hoping a prolonged shutdown doesn’t cause a ripple effect that will hurt their business.
“We’ll see what happens as days go by,” Café Old Nelson owner Steve Kang. “It’s only been two days…so I think it’s a little bit too early to say. We’ll see how it goes.”