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Small Businesses In DC Losing Profits And Employees Due To Early Metro Closings

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Small businesses in Washington, D.C., are losing employees and profits because of midnight Metro closures from SafeTrack, dealing a blow to nightlife establishments in the city.

“Most of the concern goes to the employees,” Beggiato Tommaso, general manager of The Darlington House restaurant in Northwest D.C. told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Some people will have to quit when the busy season picks up in the fall. I’m sure it will have repercussions on us.”

The D.C. Metro is currently closing at midnight to accommodate SafeTrack safety surges to repair the deteriorating system. Officials set the curfew at the beginning of June and it will stay in place for the remainder of the 10-month maintenance overhaul. Midnight closures are undercutting profits at nightlife establishments throughout the city, but managers said the biggest effect is on the employees who cannot afford peak Uber or taxi prices to get home after a 2 a.m. closing.

Before SafeTrack began, the transit system stayed open until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“That’s one of the biggest issues restaurants are having,” Tommaso said. “Most of the employees work here and live across the beltway and now are not able to get home or have to leave at an earlier time. It’s impacting our dishwashers, our late-night bartenders, so it’s been a problem. Businesses are not able to keep the proper staff.”

Many restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area have experienced a 20 percent drop in sales since the track maintenance began, according to the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. While owners and managers understand the need for safety on the District’s transit system, owners and managers argue it is coming at the expense of nightlife businesses and their employees.

“It’s hard to say [specific profit loss], but the general feeling is that it’s having a negative impact,” Mickey, owner of The Madhatter restaurant and bar in Dupont Circle, told TheDCNF. “Business is down, and late-night traffic is down. We don’t like it.”

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced a proposal in late July to close the Metro at 10 p.m. on Sundays and at midnight Mondays through Saturdays on a permanent basis when SafeTrack repairs are completed. The proposal ignited a firestorm of criticism from local restaurant owners and even the Washington Nationals.

The contentious proposal will need approval from the Metro board, which will vote on the matter this fall. Metro Chair and Council Member Jack Evans is already expressing skepticism at the proposal, as is Mayor Muriel Bowser, who said it would negatively impact working families and small businesses.

“The general consensus thus far is extreme cynicism. You know everyone is kind of pissed off about it,” Dan Hillard, manager of Luna Grill and Diner, told TheDCNF regarding the proposal. “It’s a pretty early time to shut the Metro in a cosmopolitan city like D.C.”

Wiedefeld is following recommendations from rail experts who say transit workers need the extra time to conduct maintenance and ensure the system’s longevity.

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