Food Industry

Government Shutdown: Nine Ways It Affects Restaurants and Consumers

Today, the United States Government shut down after Congress failed to reach an agreement to fund federal agencies.

The first shutdown in 17 years disrupts a laundry list of federal agencies. Though essential government employees like air traffic controllers, border patrol agents and food inspectors, will continue to work, many services we take for granted will be closed for business. Here are some:

9. The U.S. Department of Labor has been affected by the shutdown. Though unemployment benefits will continue, new filings may be delayed. Also, employers will not be able to verify if a potential employee is eligible to work in the United States, potentially causing delays in new job hires.

8. If you were planning on making a pilgrimage to Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian, you might as well cancel your plans to go to D.C. The Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and most monuments and attractions in the nation's capital, are closed until further notice.

7. The U.S. Small Business Administration will not be accepting new applications during the shutdown, meaning getting the funds to open a new restaurant could be difficult.

6. According to Reuters, the U.S. court system could operate for about two weeks on available funds, with most cases being tried uninterrupted. After that, non-essential personnel might be furloughed. If a shutdown proved to be lengthy, restaurants, coffee shops, and retail establishments that rely on the thousands of people that walk through the court houses on a daily basis could see short-term financial loss.

5. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will be partially shut down. Most tax duties will continue, but processing of requests for new licenses, label approval and manufacture of non-beverage products will cease.

4. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could operate for about four weeks with available funds. After that, restaurants, bars, and manufacturers of food products will not be able to receive trademarks or patents.

3. Everglades National Park, part of the National Parks Service, is closed until further notice, potentially affecting restaurants and roadside produce stands that rely heavily on traffic generated by visitors to the park. Restaurants like the Miccosukee Restaurant, just outside of Shark Valley on Tamiami Trail, are filled with families seeking nourishment on their way to the Everglades.

2. The EPA will halt non-essential inspections of chemical facilities and drinking water systems. How that affects our drinking water is anybody's guess, but we'll stick to bottled water -- just in case.

1. The USDA is largely closed due to the Government shutdown. However, field inspection of meat, poutry, and egg products will continue. The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration will also continue to provide inspection and weighing services that are supported by user fees.

There are other USDA services, however, that have ceased operations -- or might in the future. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) will continue at least for one month. But WIC, a separate program that feeds approximately nine million pregnant women and children, will shut down.

The Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services division is closed, as is the website, leaving consumers in the dark about food recalls and nutritional information. A visit to the website grants the following message:

Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

Follow Short Order on Facebook, on Twitter @Short_Order, and Instagram @ShortOrder.