In the three weeks since the partial government shutdown, Tanya Sergey, owner of A Moveable Feast, said she has lost half the business she normally sees.
She estimates half the business at her restaurant is from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick. And most of the FLETC customers were instructors, administrators and contractors.
“It’s definitely having an impact on us,” she said. “It affects everyone from me, the owner, to the dishwasher.”
While she can order less food during the slowdown, there are fixed costs she will have to pay regardless of the circumstances.
“We’re dipping into our savings now,” she said. “My rent is still the same. My utilities are still the same. My insurance is still the same.”
Sergey said she hasn’t had to lay off any employees, but she has had to send staff home early because business has been so slow.
“My employees still have to pay the rent,” she said.
When the shutdown ends, Sergey said her business will return after employees get their paychecks. But contractors will never be able to recover from their losses.
Bruce Dixon, owner of the Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn Mariott in Brunswick, said he has lost business as a result of the shutdown. Some FLETC trainees stay at his motels but the cancellation of some classes has affected his business.
“It reduces our occupancy rates some,” he said. “We have all been affected some by that.”
Luckily, Dixon said he still has enough business from tourists and Interstate 95 to stay afloat and not have to layoff employees or cut their hours.
The good news is once the shutdown ends, Dixon said the cancelled classes will be rescheduled.
“We think it will come back after the government reopens,” he said. “We’ll recover most of it, but we’ll never recover 100 percent of it.”
Gaila Brandon, owner of the Riverview Hotel in St. Marys, said the shutdown may have caused permanent harm to the business that has been in the family for more than 100 years. Her business is dependent on the tourists who visit Cumberland Island National Seashore, which has been closed since the shutdown.
“It’s been devastating,” she said. “Business has always been steady over the holidays. It’s crippled our business.”
Some people with reservations at the hotel were not aware the national seashore is closed after driving hundreds of miles. Brandon said they cancelled their reservations once they learned they could not visit the island.
“There’s nobody here in the hotel,” she said. “It’s a ghost town.”
The loss of business has also hurt the hotel’s staff.
“I’ve had to lay off every full-time employee except one,” she said. “It puts them in a spiraling downfall.”
One of the laid off workers has already found a new job, meaning Brandon will have to hire at least one new employee when the shutdown ends — if her business survives.
She said her business was still recovering from hurricanes Matthew and Irma. The shutdown has forced her to cut expenses drastically, including canceling her health insurance and other personal expenditures.
“I don’t see any way out of this,” she said. “We can’t pay our taxes. I’m out of operating expenses. I just don’t know what else to do.”
Brandon said her business has played a big role in the economy in downtown St. Marys for decades and it could end because of the political battle over funding of a border wall.
“It’s stressful and unnecessary,” she said. “The tourism dollars lost could have paid for that stupid wall.”