City Desk

On the Shutdown’s Second Day, Sad Afternoon Drinks With Furloughed Workers

Capitol Lounge served about 140 free draft beers to federal furloughed workers Tuesday. At 3 p.m. Wednesday—an hour after the Capitol Hill bar opened for the day—five out of seven of its customers were federal workers in shorts and T-shirts sipping on free beers.

"How are you?" bartender Farrell Parker asked a woman as she walked in.

"Furloughed," she replied.

"Yay, congrats," Parker said.

"I'm always trying to cheer people up," she later told me.

While the people were friendly, the atmosphere at Capitol Lounge wasn't quite. Everything about the old-school, wood-paneled bar screamed lonely, fuck-it-all day-drinking, down to the TVs blaring The Price Is Right, a soccer game, and Ellen.

"Drew Carey looks too thin," a furloughed Department of Labor worker told me as he sipped his Oktoberfest beer and watched The Price Is Right. "I liked it more with Bob Barker."

Tom Sampson, who works for the Department of Defense, was intently watching the soccer game. He lives in Maryland and traveled into D.C. for the day because, he said, there wasn't much going on at home and he was "hungry and thirsty."

The Department of Labor employee and three colleagues were going furlough-hopping today—jumping around to all the bars and restaurants offering deals to federal workers. Their next stop: trying to grab one of the free sandwiches from a José Andrés restaurant.

"I'm not in too much pain," Alec Ploch, a staff assistant at the Labor Department, told me. "I slept in today."

And not all is bad for Capital Lounge either. Parker, the bartender, said every furloughed worker who has come in so far has bought at least one more beer.

Graphic by Jandos Rothstein

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