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Shutdown? Drink Up

Federal employees might be feeling down on themselves for being deemed “non-essential,” but there’s at least one institution that recognizes the value of their patronage: The service industry.

Capitol Hill bars and restaurants have used the threat of a government shutdown to build good will with their customers by promising to host drink specials should a shutdown actually occur.

“Ninety percent of our clientele are staffers or somehow associated with Capitol Hill, so we want to do something nice for our guests and regulars,” said Brad Ingwell, general manager of Union Pub.

Union Pub is one of several bars in the area willing to offer shutdown specials to Capitol Hill denizens, in addition to regular happy hour deals. Penny drafts would be available at Union Pub from 5 to 6 p.m. every week day during the shutdown.

That’s a deal that even the most penny-pinching staffers can afford.

“We’re calling it, ‘Save the Happy Hour 2011,’” Ingwell said.

The primary purpose of discounting drinks during the shutdown is to keep regular customers coming. But it also creates the possibility of lightening the mood on Capitol Hill, where a shutdown would furlough thousands of government workers without a guarantee for back pay.

Of course, offering enticing drink specials not only benefits customers, but also helps the bars.

Bullfeathers, which recently opened its doors after renovations, is using the potential government shutdown as an opportunity to draw in new clientele. The Capitol Hill pub normally doesn’t offer happy hour deals, but will feature a few of their 31 draft beers for $3 and $4 if a shutdown occurs.

“We just want to bring people in,” said Stephanie Connon, manager of Bullfeathers. “The government shutting down gives more people time to drink.”

Some staffers, while not happy about missing out on much-needed money, are actually excited about the prospect of having time off. At a job where the hours are long and the BlackBerrys don’t stop buzzing, furloughed federal employees can use the break to get some much-needed rest, lament with their colleagues and finally put down their cell phones.

Although a martini might be the last drink-of-choice for someone who is out of a paycheck, the swanky Lounge 201 is willing to offer them at half-price throughout the weekdays of a shutdown, a special usually reserved for Tuesdays.

Kelly’s Irish Times will also offer specials: starting at 4 p.m. during the shutdown, patrons can purchase $2 Miller Lights and $4 Blue Moons.

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