The Government Shutdown

10.03.13

Seven Shutdown Winners, From the Newseum to Dollywood

What do Dolly Parton and foreign spies have in common? They’re among the few people who could benefit from the government shutdown. Nina Strochlic reports.

It’s hard to be a winner when the losers count kids with cancer and military veterans in their ranks. But in the days immediately following the federal government’s night shutdown, a few groups have been able to reap a very short-lived reward.

From D.C.’s bar scene to foreign intelligence agencies, here is who won’t be hurting in the immediate aftermath.

Winner: Private Museums

For the poor tourists left to explore the hard-hit capital city without the requisite war memorials, Smithsonian offerings, or capital buildings to explore, there are still a handful of privately owned attractions for the viewing. Jonathan Thompson, manager of media relations at the Newseum, says Tuesday saw double the usual walk-in traffic, and on Wednesday there was a 400 percent increase. “We hope the shutdown doesn’t last too much longer, but it does seem that folks in town planning on the Smithsonian are finding other places to go,” Thompson said. But, he notes, if the closure stretches on and tourists steer clear of D.C., this increase could reverse.

Winner: People Who Dislike the KKK

This silver lining may trump them all. On Wednesday, an October 5 rally of the Ku Klux Klan at the Gettysburg National Military Park was canceled due to the government shutdown. The Maryland-based group had obtained all necessary permits, according to park officials, who say the gathering was within the Klan’s right to freedom of speech.

Winner: Bars

Downtown D.C. may be emptied of out-of-work locals, most of whom live in surrounding states, but for government employees residing in the city with nowhere to go, there’s one tried-and-true method to pass the time: the barstool. Pubs and restaurants have taken note, offering furloughed employees special deals, and some threatening members of Congress with doubled prices.

In residential Adams Morgan, a manager at the Bourbon bar says more customers have been arriving early than usual. “I noticed people coming in as soon as doors opened,” he said; and that’s even before the extended happy hour for government employees began. In Logan Circle, the Logan Tavern noted business was “definitely busier,” especially at lunch time and at the bar, and has added more staff to handle the uptick for the past two days. “Generally the first thing people do [when they’re off] is go out, just like in snowstorms,” manager Aida Mahic says. But if it lasts, things could take a plunge. “Later on in the week they realize, ‘Wait, I'm not getting paid, so I'm not getting money.’” But central D.C. establishment are already hurting. Near Union Station, the Dubliner Irish pub said that Tuesday was hopping, but business dropped off Wednesday as furloughed employees stayed home.

Winner: Non-National Parks

Nothing will erase the shame of Yosemite shuttering on its 123rd birthday, but lesser-visited state parks along with nearby attractions and lodging could reap a small boost from the thousands being evicted from their hiking-filled nature-cations.

In Arizona, the Hualapai Indian Tribe-operated Grand Canyon West has seen a record-high increase in calls to the reservation line as the 18,000 tourists who visit the natural wonder this time of year are turned away. “We are trying to relay to visitors that while the National Park has closed and unfortunately displaced them as travelers, we do have equally beautiful views of the Grand Canyon and are open and operating as normal,” spokeswoman Dawnielle Tehama wrote in an email. To cope with the jump in interest, they have added buses and an extra tour along with staff and food and beverage deliveries. The privately owned area does not have trails in the canyon, but does offer similar white-water rafting trips.

On Tuesday the California State Parks took to Facebook to promote all the local alternatives close to the national parks. (The account manager enthusiastically liked every comment below the post.) At the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, a visitor-center employee said they’ve gotten a handful of inquiries specifically from people rerouting their national park holidays in the past two days. One visitor showed up Wednesday after canceling a trip to the northern Death Valley and brought his backpacking to the southern desert instead. But the interest doesn’t outweigh disappointment in the shutdown. “I’m not glad about any of this stuff,” he said. “I think it’s all crazy.”

Three thousand miles from Congress, in the other Washington, more than 100 developed state parks are open for business. Virginia Painter, the state parks communications director, said they’ve been fielding calls from people unsure whether state parks have been affected. “We are hoping people needing outdoor activity will remember the state has many great places to visit, and some not too far from national ones,” she says.

As guests lodging within the National Park Service were given until Thursday to leave, some accommodations slightly outside the affected area took in the departing visitors. In Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, nearby to the Olympic National Park, the Lake Quinault Lodge is governed by the state forest service and was seeing an uptick in guests, both coming in on foot and calling to reserve. “We’re finding some individuals planning to come to the peninsula realizing they’re unable to visit and [hoping to] experience all its majesty by rebooking the reservation at the Lodge,” said spokesman Dave Freireich. He says they’re working to let people know the Lake Quinault Lodge is still open for business.

Other lodging options that remain open outside the closed parks foresee a harder hit. Right off the turn for Mount Saint Helens in Washington, Mount Saint Helens Motel owner Ellen Rose said she’d already had cancellations. “I really feel like I should bill the government for that.”

For any hikers booted from the Great Smoky Mountains, why not trade in for a theme park? A spokesman for Dolly Parton’s Dollywood says it would welcome the opportunity to show around any unfamiliar and stranded visitors from the now-closed national park and have them take in the “National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration.”

Winner: Foreign Spies

Let’s take a trip back to the Cold War, shall we? On Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the mass exodus of furloughed U.S. intelligence agency employees “a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit” these income-less employees. Apparently, 72 percent of intelligence agency civilian workers have been deemed nonessential temporarily let go. The move has been questioned by Rep. Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who expressed disbelief that “we’re still able to meet our national-security responsibilities.” Watch your neighbors closely. Clapper called the stalemate an issue that “seriously damages our ability to protect the security and safety of this nation and its citizens.”

Winner: Stay-at-Home Parents

Lucky (or unlucky) kids will have double the eyes on them this week, as 800,000 furloughed employees across the nation return home to their families. While waiting out the ability of Congress to get back on its feet, a normally overworked government staffer might be able pitch in a hand to their taxed spouses.

Winner: Twitter

Because why not get some frustration off your chest by drafting up public grievances and sending them into the abyss of the Internet? Twitter says they don’t break down usage by day, but the initial couple thousand people discussing the government and impending shutdown has skyrocketed in recent days. By September 30, the terms “government” “shutdown,” and “shut down” skyrocketed from less than a million mentions combined, to more than 4 million tweets, with the most concentrated in the states surrounding D.C. Our attention span doesn’t have much longevity: on Wednesday, the numbers had already dropped back to a little over September 29 levels.

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Winner: #ShutdownPickupLines