Economy Doesn’t Seem to be Hurting DC Area

It’s interesting to compare and contrast things in DC to here back home. I think you can argue that the Restaurant business is a good bellwether of how people are feeling about the economy. Back here in the Philadelphia area, since the economy went into the crapper, wait lists have shortened or disappeared altogether, often even on weekends. You can still find waits at some of the econo-chains, like Outback, but most everywhere else it’s just a matter of walking in. Especially in higher end restaurants.

So you can imagine my surprise when we hit the dinner scene in DC and we’re back to one hour waits. Even past 8:00, we had to wait 45 minutes at one place in Arlington. If people are feeling uncertain about the economy and their jobs in DC, it’s certainly not showing up in people eating more at home like it is here. But why should people in DC worry about their jobs? Their major industry is growing like gangbusters, and they can always suck more money away from parts of the country that really are struggling and uncertain. No wonder people are fed up.

11 thoughts on “Economy Doesn’t Seem to be Hurting DC Area”

  1. With D.C., maybe the high end restaurants are full of staffers graciously spending our tax dollars on expense accounts so they are unaffected by the economy. I mean, they wouldn’t want to lower themselves to meet at an Outback or something.

  2. Certainly, the economy in N. Va. and DC is doing better than elsewhere, but I think there are some other demographic reasons beyond the growth of the Federal Government. There are a ton of young, single people in Arlington and Alexandria (and DC), people who are more likely to go out to eat. Of course, it helps that your taxpayer dollars fund their incomes, but restaurants in Fairfax county are emptier than they were 18 months ago. Families seem to be cutting back, even here.

  3. agreed 100% with Ed’s comment. lots of younger singles living in the District, and it’s still exceedingly popular to go out to eat every night down there.

    must be nice to have that kind of cash lying around.

  4. Sort of agree with Ed. The comparison to Fairfax is an interesting one, and mindful of the fact that the DC area has two very seperate economies – one revolved around the Federal GoOvernment (which is growing by leaps and bounds – but has other factors at play as well) and the tech sector which, where it has transformed itself into Defense Tech is doing fine but in other areas is sufferring like it does anywhere else in the country.

    Look at real estate values – Loudon County/Leesburg, are in shambles. Reston and Herndon are seeing fallen prices. While prices in my neighbor hood in McLean are nearly back to where they were pre economic collapse.

    Yes, there are younger folks in DC. But they aren’t driving the economy. The young staff generally makes a pittance in salary (30-40k for a hill staffer) and they don’t stay very long.

    We do have a new administration rolling into town (which provides some cushion on housing) though the prices these days bear no relation to where they were pre Dot Com and Big Gov explosion.

  5. NoVA doesn’t have a restaurant smoking ban (or didn’t last time I ate out there). Does Philly? (NJ does, and I’ve noticed less wait at restaurants as well in NJ(.


  6. I hope you enjoyed DC!! Did you get a chance for a frosty at the Tune Inn, DC’s best dive bar? It’s on Capitol Hill. You know it by the dozens of dead animals on the wall and the NRA sign above door on the inside. Lot’s of friendly people there.

  7. Ian, no, I don’t think there’s any kind of smoking ban in VA. (That’s an issue that has to be handled at the state level there.) But we tried one joint in DC that had an hour wait. Then we gave up and went to Arlington where we were told a 20-30 minute wait that turned into a 45 minute wait. The other restaurants in the area also had full tables from the looks of things. We even had to wait for lunch the next day.

    All of the places we went were smoke-free by choice. That’s a trend I’ve even noticed in NJ diners. At least a few of them go smoke-free during busy hours so that a smoking section doesn’t sit empty or nearly empty.

  8. NJ has been smoke-free outside of casinos for a few years now. Though I did see a fair few establishments that were smokefree by choice, and at least one that had a filtration system that worked well enough that they didn’t need to segregate.

    In re NoVA restaurants; I couldn’t remember if I’d gone out when I went down there for 4th of July or not – if not the previous time was around this time last year.

  9. The dc restaraunt economy has definitely picked up. last year this time I saw 6 places close in 30 days in my Cap. Hill hood. They were all shuttered for a year, but now 4 of the spaces have either opened or are un the process of opening.

    You really do need to stop in at the Tume Inn on your next visit. It is the real deal. A dozen mounts shot by the owner (who recently passed away) and his daughter (who runs it now). Antique (or just old) guns. drunks getting their breakfast beer. Have a $3 Bud with the Congressman next to you and tell him your views on gun rights.

    1. Isn’t it more fun to go hang out at Hawk & Dove to see if you can spot a Kennedy before he crashes into a Capitol Police barricade? :)

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