Alongside Those Federal Workers Sidelined By The Shutdown? Their Favorite Lunch Spots

January 5, 2019
Photo: Government Shutdown Businesses | Nick's Cafe 1
Nick Andurlakis at the counter of his Elvis-themed restaurant, Nick's Cafe, located near a hub of federal agency in Lakewood. Andurlakis said the cafe has lost 20 or 25 percent of its business during the shutdown.

Tens of thousands of federal workers in Colorado remain furloughed by the partial shutdown of the U.S government.

The shutdown, now entering its third week, has caused issues such as garbage piling up at National Parks and the IRS offices not being open for questions. It also means a slowdown for businesses usually frequented by federal workers, such as restaurants. 

The Denver Federal Center in the suburb of Lakewood houses 28 government agencies in 44 buildings. A good portion of federal employees working there are not on the job due to the shutdown. 

Down the street from the Federal Center is Nick’s Cafe. Nick Andurlakis has run the cafe for 32 years.

It’s unabashedly Elvis-themed, with the walls adorned with photos and album covers. Even the cafe’s signature “Fool’s Gold” sandwich was ordered and loved by the King himself, Andurlakis said. 

Andurlarkis said normally sells a dozen of the signature sandwiches, give or take, each day. However, on a recent visit to the cafe, things were pretty quiet. 

Photo: Government Shutdown Businesses | Nick's Cafe 2
A wall of Elvis albums in Nick's Cafe in Lakewood.

“I think we’ve lost, you know maybe 20 percent of our business, 25 percent of our business,” he said.

He expects the shutdown is partially responsible for his drop in customers, but also said he thought a lot of regulars could still be out for the holidays.

Everybody suffers a little when the government shuts down, Andurlakis said. Still, he thinks a shutdown usually happens for a reason, and he supports the cause of more border security.

“I’m the kind of guy that wants the government to be safe. I can understand where the President’s coming from,” he said, calling the shutdown a little political fistfight. 

Right across the street from the federal center, local Tokyo Joe’s franchise manager Jolie Voss said 30 to 40 percent of her customer base are federal workers.

“You kind of just get used to the same faces. Bob from accounting is going to come in and get his white chicken bowl,” Voss said. “So to not see those faces as often, you really notice.”

Photo: Government Shutdown Businesses | Tokyo Joe's
Tokyo Joe’s franchise manager Jolie Voss poses in her Lakewood store. Voss said 30-40 percent of her customer base are federal workers, and that her franchise has lost thousands of dollars during the shutdown.

As a franchise manager, she is expected to meet certain sales quotas and said business has been down thousands of dollars per week since the shutdown.

“We have to start sending people home earlier, so people are losing hours, we’re starting to waste more food product, which means we’re spending more money on things we’re just not gonna go through and in general just decreases the morale of my store,” she said.

She described the shutdown as a squabble over petty affairs.

The customers who were in the Tokyo Joe’s during a recent weekday lunch rush could take solace in maybe getting through the line faster. 

Jeda Mckenney was sitting at a table outside. He’s not a federal employee and said he’s not paying much attention to the shutdown, though he might, “when stoplights stop working and they don’t shovel my snow.” 

Those aren’t federal obligations, but the sentiment reflected those of other Tokyo Joe’s customers that day — they were not noticing effects of the shutdown even as the businesses federal workers usually patron do. And while the furloughed workers are likely to get back-pay, a sandwich shop is not going to get paid for a sandwich not eaten.

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