In fact, if one thing has become clear to District food truck owners since the government shutdown began Tuesday, it’s that they rely heavily on federal workers to keep their businesses afloat. Some of the trucks’ most popular locations — L’Enfant Plaza, the Navy Yard, Federal Triangle and streets surrounding the State Department — are near federal buildings full of workers who go out to lunch.
Carl, 48, put his situation into sharp relief: He and Jacob, 34, were married in March, and about a month later they launched Carolina Q, a business into which they sank all of their savings. The truck had just started to break even and prove that it could become a moneymaker for the couple. But until this month, neither Jacob nor Carl had taken cash out of the business, and they’ve only taken small amounts. What’s more, Carl isn’t even certain he will receive back pay once the shutdown ends.
“Now, we really need to take money out of the business,” said Carl, a resident of Mount Vernon Square. “We put all of our savings into this business. It’s kind of a perilous time now.”
On Thursday afternoon, Layth Mansour was pacing near his trucks,Philadelphia Steak Bites and George’s Buffalo Wings, which were parked on C Street SW, just outside the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. The nearby Transportation Department and Federal Aviation Administration buildings were apparently hit hard by the shutdown; Mansour said sales at both trucks were down 65 percent. His business, he added, employs 12 people.
“I’m not going to be able to afford the employees,” Mansour said as he stood on the nearly empty sidewalk. “I’m losing money if I come out now.” Mansour figured that if the shutdown was not resolved by Monday, he’d pull his trucks off the street, essentially putting a dozen more people out of work.
The proprietors of the Stix truck have already cut loose their prep and grill cooks “because we’re unable to pay them,” co-owner Leah Perez said. “It’s just pretty sad out there.”
Josh Saltzman, co-owner of the PORC truck, has decided to take his vehicle off the streets. It took just one day of vending for Saltzman to make the call. On Tuesday, his barbecue truck stopped at Franklin Square, a normally reliable sales location not dependent on federal workers. His sales were off by 50 percent. “Our business is pretty steady all the time,” Saltzman said. “When I don’t see those kind of [regular customers], I’ve got to assume it’s because of the effects of the shutdown.”