Bethesda navigates shutdown with free food, hastily arranged nuptials -- Gazette.Net


The Irish tin whistlers are on the move, the international waltzers have found a new home and the plein-air watercolorists are searching the landscape for a new location.

In fact, all of the folks enrolled in Glen Echo Park’s many art, music and dance classes have scrambled to find new places in the area to meet during the partial federal government shutdown, which began Oct. 1.

Among the groups seeking a temporary new home is a children’s theater troupe, Adventure Theatre-MTC.

The theater group hopes to relocate performances of its show “Goodnight Moon” to a different venue and extend the run to accommodate those who have purchased tickets, spokeswoman Amanda Russell said. The group said last week it relocated its operations to Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville.

As of Tuesday, Adventure Theatre-MTC had canceled several shows at Glen Echo Park, Russell said.

If forced to cancel the remaining performances of “Goodnight Moon,” Russell said, her organization stands to lose about $45,000 in revenue.

In addition to the performances, Russell said, Adventure Theatre-MTC has a Harvest Fest gala scheduled for Oct. 17, which also could be at risk of cancellation if the government shutdown keeps Glen Echo Park closed. Russell said the group is trying to relocate the gala.

Perhaps the most unlikely people scrambling to change their Glen Echo Park plans are brides-to-be.

Couples planning to be married there are rushing to find new venues for their nuptials as they, too, are locked out of the federally run park.

Some of those weddings are moving to Strathmore in North Bethesda, spokesman Mike Fila said.

Over the weekend, Strathmore hosted a wedding on three days’ notice for a bride and groom scrambling to relocate their service and reception from Glen Echo, Fila said in an email.

Strathmore tentatively has scheduled at least two more weddings this month that were originally booked at Glen Echo, he said.

Another visible way the shutdown has come to the Bethesda area is through businesses providing discounts and freebies to furloughed workers.

In downtown Bethesda, Redwood restaurant offered an all-day $4 and $5 happy hour to federal employees last week. This weekend, manager Colin Brennan said, the restaurant plans to offer a free glass of wine or an appetizer with the purchase of an appetizer or entree.

“We feel bad for those people who have lost their income,” Brennan said. “We want to support everybody in the community.”

Happy hours are a double-edged sword, said Marsha Lopez, the chief of the epidemiology research branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“The problem is I’m still spending money I wouldn’t ordinarily be spending. So, that makes it tricky,” said Lopez, who lives in Bethesda. She has tried to scope out the free deals instead.

“I did the Z Burger on the first day, and I did the Range pizza,” she said of two eateries, one in Tenleytown and the other in Friendship Heights, both in Washington, that offered free food to furloughed feds. “I want to do one of the José Andrés sandwich things.”

Chef Andrés is giving furloughed employees with government IDs a free sandwich every day throughout the shutdown from 3 to 5 p.m. at any of his three eateries, including Jaleo in Bethesda.

Meanwhile, Lopez said, her children’s closets have never been more organized.

Searching for something productive to do during the downtime is a common theme among the furloughed.

Local list-servs have seen an uptick in federal employees looking for odd jobs, part-time work or just something to do.

One man, who wrote that he had 30 years of experience in engineering, research and research management with the federal government, said he would rather tutor children than do nothing.

Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda hopes some of those parents at home, without work, will consider volunteering.

“If you are at home today because of the government shutdown, please come out to volunteer as a Westbrook Ranger,” wrote Judit Markarian, chairwoman of the school’s Recess Rangers. “Our government may not be able to figure things out, but we know that our kids would love to have you at lunch and recess.”