- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

An "Anthrax Free" sign hung inside the Tune Inn yesterday, the Capitol Hill tavern's way of letting customers know it was open for business despite the bioterrorism scare that closed nearby congressional offices.
Some neighborhood merchants said customers virtually disappeared when congressional leaders ordered an unprecedented shutdown of the House after 31 persons at the Capitol tested positive for exposure to a highly concentrated form of anthrax.
The Senate remained in session, but all the congressional offices that surround the Capitol were closed so environmental teams could test the buildings for more signs of anthrax.
The office closings, expected to last until Tuesday, worried business owners already hurting because of street closings and tightened security around the Capitol. City leaders urged merchants to be patient, predicting the businesses will bounce back when Congress is fully reopened.
"We've been hit by all of this," said Lisa Nardelli, manager of the Tune Inn, where the words "Anthrax Free" were written in red on a simple sheet of white paper posted in the front door's window. A few feet away, an Old West-style "Wanted Dead or Alive" poster with Osama bin Laden's face was displayed above the bar.
The congressional closings sent hundreds of workers home early, robbing the Tune Inn of many of its regular lunchtime customers, Ms. Nardelli said.
The tavern will count on its usual dinner crowd primarily Capitol Hill residents to carry it through the next few days, she said.
Al Shuman, owner of the Trover Shop bookstore on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, said the closings disappointed him because business had been brisk this week.
Capitol Hill workers who stopped receiving out-of-town newspapers when congressional leaders tightened mail delivery in the Capitol had started buying their papers and magazines at the Trover Shop, Mr. Shuman said.
Businesses across the District have suffered since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon as tourism slowed to a trickle and street closings made it much more difficult for consumers to get around town.
Economists project the city's economy will lose $750 million in the six months after Sept. 11. At least 10,000 small businesses could close, Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, told a Senate panel last week.
City officials urged Capitol Hill neighborhood businesses to be patient yesterday, saying the congressional closings are needed to ensure the Capitol is free of the anthrax bacteria.
"In the short term, [the closings] will create a little pain for the businesses in that neighborhood. But in the long run, they will benefit because people will know Capitol Hill is a safe place to do business," said Christopher Bender, a spokesman for the D.C. Office of Planning and Economic Development.
The congressional office closings were only the latest setback for Capitol Hill merchants.
Several streets around the Capitol, including portions of C and South Capitol streets and New Jersey Avenue, have been closed since Oct. 11, when security around the building was tightened dramatically.
The street closings have made it tough for businesses to receive deliveries, according to Dennis P. Bourgault, who owns a pet shop in the neighborhood and serves as president of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals.
"We certainly want to be on the side of safety, but at some point this really begins to impact the businesses in the neighborhood," he said.

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