Some win, some lose during shutdown
BAR HARBOR, Maine — The 16-day government shutdown in October did not just affect those people who worked for the government. The businesses and residents of Bar Harbor felt the effects of the shutdown when the nearby Acadia National Park was closed.
The government shutdown was the result of a political disagreement in Congress, which did not pass required legislation for the 2014 federal budget in time. It resulted in 800,000 people being furloughed, most for the duration of the shut down. As of Oct. 11, an estimated $5.2 million in spending was lost in the Bar Harbor area, as reported by the Bangor Daily News. According to the Boston Globe, the shutdown caused the country to lose $24 billion.
|Mikayla Vielot, from Miami, kayaks during a sunset trip in Bar Harbor, Maine, in October (Photos by Margaux Herrera).
Moose Tracks, a shop on Main Street that sells T-shirts and other branded items, was not selling nearly as much as they usually did in early October.
“Half the people don’t get off the ship around this time,” Owen said. “A lot of people don’t know of Bar Harbor.”
The town sees 135 ships every season, from the beginning of the summer through October, often twice per day. Nearly all of the businesses in Bar Harbor close annually on Nov. 1, which meant the shutdown hit just weeks before closing. The shutdown was in effect Columbus Day Weekend, a big moneymaking weekend for the town. Some workers, almost all of whom are seasonal, were let go early, heading back to their homes elsewhere in Maine.
Owen was surprised that people being forced to stay in town would have helped the business.
|At left, Albert Meadow Antiques just off the Main Street, experienced an increase in sales during the federal government shutdown. Below, a whale watching trip in Bar Harbor, Maine, ended with no whale sightings, but several pods of porpoises.
“You’d think that because it’s closed, people are forced to stay in town,” Owen said.
But not everyone was hurt by the shutdown. Helen Day, who works at Albert Meadow Antiques just off the Main Street, said the park closing had brought in more money for the business.
“For me, it’s been advantageous,” Day said. “In the first 13 days [of October], we’ve done more (sales) than we do in the whole month.”
Day explained that the cruise ships that come in the fall are referred to as the “money ships,” because the people who take those cruises tend to be wealthier than those who take summer cruises. Those a few cruise ships began bypassing Bar Harbor after the shutdown, the majority still stopped in town.
“The ships still come,” Day said. “The town is still open. We have a lot of eating places. They’re not getting to the park, so they come ashore … and they go to shops.”
Day said she had done so well, in fact, that she could afford to close the shop early.
“If something happened in Washington tomorrow and my business died, I would be ahead of last year,” she said.
The antique shop was the last remaining one of its kind in the town. According to Day, 24 shops have closed in Maine in the last few years.
Bar Harbor’s seasonal jobs are an important source of jobs for many. Owen moved there from California four years ago, when he was unable to find a service job in California. The shutdown was frustrating for him.
“I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “I’m not the federal government. If I was, I’d be smarter.”