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10 percent off: The other price(s) of a shutdown

Wednesday - 10/9/2013, 9:07am  ET

sapore.JPG
A sandwich board outside Sapore on Capitol Hill announces a tweaked pricing system. Federal workers get 10 percent off. Members of Congress pay 10 percent more. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON - The partial shutdown of the federal government comes at a price - two of them, actually.

Restaurants, bars and shops have started offering discounts to federal workers, while some have posted surcharges for members of Congress brazen enough to admit who they are.

A sandwich board in front of Sapore Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill announces a 10 percent discount to all federal workers. Any member of Congress has 10 percent added to the bill.

"We've had a really positive response of people coming into the store and thanking us for putting the sign out there and for the discount," says Renee Farr, the owner.

People walking by on Pennsylvania Avenue have been taking pictures and laughing at the sign.

"We wanted to put something humorous out there, but it is also to help out a lot of our customers who are federal workers," Farr says.

Numerous bars offer federal workers a cheaper drink than usual.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Dupont Circle has expanded its normal happy hour to all day for all people.

That is, except Congress.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Dupont Circle has expanded happy hour to include all business hours for everyone - except Congress. Members brave enough to identify themselves are asked to pay double the listed price. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

"I decided members of Congress should probably pay double because they're causing all the pain," says Henry Posner, president of the bookstore and café.

He says business has increased with many federal employees forced off the job.

That first order at double-the-price hasn't come yet.

"We haven't had any Congressmen announce themselves, willing to pay double," Posner says.

"I don't suspect they will, but if they do announce themselves, I think we'd leave it up to people in the bar to vote on whether we should charge them double or not," he says.

While discounts for federal workers have a tangible benefit, the surcharge for Congress members may seem like a deft, populist move. After all, Americans tell pollsters they prefer root canals to the legislative body.

But Posner says there's more to it than that. It's about standing up for people who have become collateral damage.

"There's a lot of people out of work, and it's a serious issue not only for Washingtonians and the area in general, but it will be for the country unless a resolution happens relatively soon," he says.

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