The weather was dreary yesterday as crowds lined Pennsylvania Avenue to watch Ronald Reagan's funeral procession go by. They wanted coffee. And Neela Toteja was happy to oblige.
In the morning, tourists popped in and out of her shop, Capitol Grounds, to grab a hot decaf latte before the cortege arrived.
"None of our regulars are here," she said as she straightened a just-vacated chair. "But there's enough tourists that we're doing better than a normal day."
Abel Gaoma, standing in the coffee shop, was less enthused. He cuts hair at Puglisi Hair Cuts next door. Or rather, he cuts hair most days. Yesterday, he hadn't had a single customer by 11 a.m. "Normally I would have had six or seven by this time," he said. "I'll probably go home early."
That's how things went for businesses in much of Washington yesterday, and most of the week. The first presidential funeral in Washington since 1973 generated an influx of tourists and heads of state. But it also created fears of choked traffic and caused the government and many businesses to close yesterday, resulting in lost productivity and fewer sales for some merchants.
In purely economic terms, the tributes to Reagan were like other events that can be frustrating for area businesses, along the lines of major World Bank protests or a modest snowstorm. It is hard to put an exact price on such disruptions, local business leaders said, as they played down the economic impact.
"I don't think many businesses will feel a terribly large impact from the funeral events," said Robert A. Peck, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, a regional chamber of commerce. "Nobody's saying 'Oh my gosh, this is terrible for business.' "
As the federal government closed its doors Friday, many of the companies that serve it stayed open -- but found ways to honor Reagan. GTSI Corp., in Chantilly, had a normal workday, but invited workers to watch three hours of televised funeral coverage in a large meeting room.
VSE Corp, a government contractor based in Alexandria, had a liberal leave policy, permitting employees to take the day off but requiring them to use accumulated leave time if they did so.
"In some cases people have deadlines and they need to keep them," said Craig Weber, VSE's chief administrative officer. "And in other cases it's 'Geez, my customer's not there, and it's not as productive a day as another day would be.' "
Other companies closed altogether, including banking and securities law firm Luse Gorman Pomerenk & Schick, based in the District. "We didn't shut down for Nixon's funeral services, and I felt bad about that," said partner Eric Luse. "This is a historic moment. I thought it would be an opportunity for the staff if they wanted to go down today."
But shutting down the 20-lawyer firm didn't cause a significant loss of productivity, Luse said. Like many of Washington's office workers, he said, his firm's employees typically can make up for a lost day by working at home or by working harder on other days. "We just worked a little later on Thursday," Luse said.
If the funeral was an economic nonevent for many local businesses, parts of the city's tourism industry were bustling this week.
Ritz-Carlton hotels started getting reservations for VIPs planning to attend the funeral last Saturday, before Reagan's death had been announced publicly. With seven foreign delegations and their security details staying in its two hotels in the District, both of them 100 percent occupied, Ritz-Carlton area general manager Paul Westbrook said: "I've never seen anything like it."
The hotels were just as full as at a presidential inauguration or a World Bank meeting, Westbrook said. The big difference was the lack of months of advance planning for this event. Everything had to be worked out on the fly, taxing concierges and other hotel staff.
Still, it was less of a financial boon than it might have been. Tourism in Washington has been very strong in recent weeks, with the opening of the World War II Memorial and other events.
As a result, the two Ritz-Carlton hotels already had been fully booked for the week. Reagan-related visitors took rooms that were vacated by business travelers canceling their reservations because of the funeral events.
At Reeves Restaurant Bakery, about two blocks from the White House, 10 waiters showed up for work yesterday, hoping for a steady stream of tourists to replace downtown workers. They never came.
"The restaurant got hit really hard," general manager John Glorioso said, sitting in a nearly empty dining room.
Friday usually brings heavy business, as nearby law firms and government agencies throw end-of-week office parties. "We're going to have to throw away some pies," Glorioso said.
And at Two Amy's, a pizza place near National Cathedral, where the funeral was held yesterday, the only customers who could get through security lines until 2 p.m. were a handful of Secret Service agents, according to bar manager Thea MacQuaid.
Others had better luck. "It's marvelous for business," said Khalil Aburish, a consultant for Bethany Limousine Service. He said the company handled transportation for the Crown Prince of Morocco and heads of state from Algeria, Canada and the Netherlands.
Salon Nuance on 13th Street NW extended its hours earlier this week to fit in appointments before Reagan's funeral. "We were just swamped," said owner Christopher Rosenthal. Yesterday, though, stylists did about half their normal business, filling the time watching the funeral on CNN.
At the Froggy Bottom Pub on Pennsylvania Avenue, business was slow yesterday, but that was fine with owner Hien Bui. She let the crowd of people waiting to watch the funeral procession gather under her restaurant's awning. She even opened the restroom to tourists.
"I hope it is a slow day so I can go in and watch the funeral on TV," Bui said. "He's a great man. I want to do what I can."
Staff writers Karlyn Barker, Amy Joyce and Ellen McCarthy contributed to this report.