- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Yesterday was a good day for Steve Wilner.
He found out that after three weeks with no absolutely no business, the four restaurants he co-owns Charles Mann's All-Pro Grill, Sam Adams Brewhouse, DC Brewhouse and a Jerry's Subs and Pizza franchise will open once again.
His businesses were among many that have been hurt by the closure of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
President Bush yesterday announced the reopening of the airport, which has been closed for three weeks for a security review after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Our entire livelihood lies at Reagan Airport," he said. The airport's closure "was really devastating to everyone. Our cash flow stopped. And the worst has been the uncertainty."
Uncertainty about when, or if, Reagan Airport would reopen forced many businesses in and around the airport to lay off workers.
Now entrepreneurs are rushing to get things ready for the airport's planned reopening tomorrow. And that's a lot of work, Mr. Wilner said.
"Essentially, we had to throw away all the perishable products, and we sent some back," he said. "So we need to reorder goods, reorder beer and contact the employees and get them back in."
The four restaurants will reopen on a limited basis.
Another airport eatery, Legal Sea Foods, faces the same challenges.
"We're certainly excited" about reopening, said Roger Berkowitz, president and chief executive of the Boston-based chain. "We were hoping this would happen sooner rather than later."
The restaurant employs 40 workers, some of whom took the past three weeks as vacation time. Others worked at the chain's six other locations in the region a situation that may become permanent depending on how limited the airport's capacity is once it reopens.
Mr. Berkowitz said employees will be relocated, most likely, to the chain's new eatery scheduled to open in Crystal City the first week of November.
"I don't think we're losing anybody," he said. "The airport was a very popular location for our employees."
Indeed, the thousands of laid-off workers in and around the airport from airline pilots and mechanics to janitors and parking lot attendants want their jobs back.
Romina Wadhawan worked as a full-time parking lot attendant at Reagan Airport for 11 years until Monday, when she and several of her colleagues were laid off.
"They said to wait a week or two for them to call [us] back," said Mrs. Wadhawan, whose husband is a cabdriver in the District and is also suffering financially from the lack of business. As of yesterday afternoon, she had not been called back.
"I'll wait two, three weeks. But we are not making any money, so I don't know how to pay bills."
Mrs. Wadhawan said she was making $1,600 to $1,700 a week because of the numerous overtime hours she worked at the formerly busy airport parking lots. Now, the lots are empty, save for several cars of workers filing to collect unemployment at a makeshift office set up by the Virginia Employment Commission inside one of the airport's terminals.
Typically, Virginians have to wait a week after they lose their jobs and must actively seek other work in order to collect unemployment, which ranges from $50 to $268 a week. But Gov. James S. Gilmore III waived the requirements after Sept. 11, and unemployed workers rushed to apply for the benefits.
The first week was the busiest for the dozen or so work force service representatives interviewing unemployed workers at the airport. But workers from many other related industries hotels, restaurants, car-rental agencies, and shuttle and taxi companies have been trickling in during the past two weeks.
Reopening the airport should improve the picture, said Ann Miller, one of the employment agency's representatives at the airport. But the limited amount of air traffic, dictated by new security measures, will likely mean that some workers will not get their jobs back.
Fekerte Getachew is one of four room service order-takers who were laid off at the Hilton in Crystal City Sept. 17 after a week of drastically lower occupancy. Having worked at the hotel for over a year, Ms. Getachew was sad to leave the job, not just because of the loss of income. She said also that Hilton worked around her schedule so that she could attend cosmetology school in her spare time.
Ms. Getachew, a native of Ethiopia, applied to collect unemployment benefits this week, and she is looking for work at local restaurants and cosmetics shops. However, she hopes to get the promised call from her manager at the Hilton saying business has returned.
"That's what the manager told me he said wait until the end of October or mid-November, if business picks up," she said. "They just told us there are no guests at the hotel, so no business, so no reasons to be there."
Other unemployed workers like Dorris Gaskins, laid off as administrative assistant at US Airways Friday are being more proactive in seeking jobs.
She signed up to collect unemployment, but the weekly amount is less than a quarter of what she was making before.
"It's gas money," joked Ms. Gaskins, who has signed up to do marketing for an online company that matches people who want to work from home with companies needing help.
On her first day, yesterday, Ms. Gaskins walked around Reagan National sticking advertising cards under the windshield wipers of the few cars parked there.
'You just can't exist on what you get from unemployment," Ms. Gaskins said. "So I'm just trying to let people know there are other opportunities. Many of them are not long-term, but they are something for now."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide