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Sunday, January 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Fewer lunches and coffee breaks by federal workers begin to cut into profits at downtown Spokane eateries

Next Door Espresso owner Ava Haase, second from right, and Vonessa Curless, right, look outside while waiting for customers as Alee Llewellyn helps customer Terrie Banks just before noon, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in downtown Spokane. Haase says the government shutdown has reduced her business by 50 percent. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Next Door Espresso owner Ava Haase, second from right, and Vonessa Curless, right, look outside while waiting for customers as Alee Llewellyn helps customer Terrie Banks just before noon, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in downtown Spokane. Haase says the government shutdown has reduced her business by 50 percent. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

With its convenient location across the street from their workplace, Next Door Espresso is a regular stop for many federal employees in downtown Spokane.

But that’s changed.

In what is already a slow time of year for small businesses in the downtown core, the partial federal government shutdown is resulting in even fewer customers, Next Door Espresso owner Ava Haase said Thursday.

Now she is worried what the slowdown could mean if the shutdown – in its 21st day Friday – continues through the end of the month.

Haase said at least 60 percent of her customers come from the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse across the street from her business on Riverside Avenue.

“We’re at about half of what our sales normally are this time of year,” she said.

Haase said January is typically a slow time for sales with the end of the busy holiday season, but business has begun picking back up by this time in years past.

Haase, who has owned Next Door Espresso for three years, said she has never seen a shutdown like this before.

By this weekend, the shutdown will become the longest in history, with 800,000 federal employees nationwide not receiving a paycheck Friday.

“With the past ones, people were still going into work,” she said, but now the shutdown has lasted so long they are no longer getting paid, so they aren’t coming into Next Door Espresso. Even the essential government workers who are coming in without pay still have all the same bills to pay, Haase said, which means less money to spend on coffee or lunch.

“If they’re not making money, I’m not making money,” she said.

So far, Haase has been filling her orders every night to fit her average sales and hasn’t had to cut back hours for her employees, but that may change if the shutdown continues through the end of next week.

“I wasn’t mad when I had an employee call in sick,” she said. “I don’t want to cut my employees’ hours.”

Two blocks north on Second Avenue at Brooklyn Deli, co-owner Jody Bonnes said she hadn’t even thought about the impact furloughed employees would have on her business.

But during the past year’s holiday parties, Bonnes said she noticed that many of the federal workers make up a large portion of her regular customers.

Bonnes said the past few weeks have been slower than usual. “We’re just doing a fraction of what we normally do.”

Down First Avenue at Incrediburger and Eggs, assistant manager Brian White echoed Haase’s comments that January is already a typically slow month of the year for sales. A shutdown can’t be helping business, he said, but since the restaurant is only in its first year, he can’t make sales comparisons to previous years.

However, White did express concern over the possibility of delayed tax returns if the shutdown continues.

Delay of expendable money from a tax return would have a huge effect on not only customers but Incrediburger employees, he said.

Bonnes also said that any delays with tax refunds could be felt in sales. Usually people get past the holidays, get their refunds and start spending again, so February tends to be one of Brooklyn Deli’s busiest months.

Back at Next Door Espresso, Haase said the shop typically closes on federal holidays. This year, she is considering keeping it open for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21 to serve only coffee in an effort to make up some revenue.

Located in the less shopper-heavy west end of downtown, though, Next Door doesn’t get the volume of foot traffic other coffee shops do.

“About 90 percent of our business is regulars … I rely on my regulars,” she said.

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