How Does The Government Shutdown Affect Restaurant Owners?

It’s a fair question, and has lead to confusion for many. How does the “government shutdown” that began on October 1st affect the restaurant owner? What services will be cut off to me? Which ones will continue? How long will the shutdown last?

We may not have answers to all of the questions (especially that last one, as it may wrap up minutes after you read this), but we can help you figure out a few of them.

The United States Department of Agriculture Has Gone “Dark”

The USDA has gone “dark” for the interim of the shutdown. A visit to only displays

Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.

After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.

For information about available government services, visit

To view U.S. Department of Agriculture Agency Contingency plans, visit:

Message from the President to U.S. Government Employees

Reuters reports that inspection of meat is considered an “essential service” (like police, emergency aid, and more) and will go on as planned. Without meat and poultry inspectors, the meatpacking industry would have to shut down, as it cannot legally operate without USDA inspectors. Grain inspectors, not funded by the government, would also largely stay in work. In comparison, the USDA’s economics and statistics wing would go down, unable to make reports or projections.

For Washington D.C. restaurants, they’re finding this to be a great way to drive up business, with many patrons finding themselves with a bit of free time at the cost of being a little tight on cash at the moment. Eater reports on what many restaurants, pubs, and more are doing in an effort to keep spirits and profits high.

  • Many are offering reduced drink prices.
  • Some are offering free sandwich or burgers to government employees.
  • Happy Hour is going later, starting earlier, or even going on all day.
  • Puns are going into effect, with “Raw Deal” oysters, “Furlough Fries”, “Olive Branch Cocktail”, “Shot Down” drinks.

These restaurants, and yours, can have a little fun with the shutdown if you want by offering such specials, and they can offer a hand to government employees who are temporarily without work.

Other adjustments to be made include:

  • According to The Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security will not operate it’s E-Verify site, meaning restaurant owners can not check on the immigration or citizenship status of potential employees.
  • Many of the Labor Department’s offices will close, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division.
  • Mail will not be affected, as the United States Postal Service is self-funded. So, you’ll still be able to send out advertisements, checks, receive packages, and more.

The government shutdown may go on for a day or two, or could reach past the longest one of 21 days. For the most part, your restaurant should remain functional without hiccup, but there may be a few behind-the-scenes things that may trickle down to you, especially if you have USDA or employment questions.