- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Local businesses from cabdrivers to airport cafes are losing money each day as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks that have left Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport closed.

"Business is terrible," said Curtis Thompkins, a D.C. cabdriver. "We're not making any money."

Most of the day Mr. Thompkins sits in his cab lined up behind dozens of others outside Union Station and waits, sometimes an hour and half before he gets his first fare. Yesterday he started his day at 6:30 a.m. and by early afternoon he had made $24.

"If you make $100 a day you're lucky," said Mr. Thompkins, who made $30 on Saturday and Sunday combined. On weekends he usually makes $100 each day.

For a week and a half the supply of cabs has far outweighed the demand.

The cabs, which include those from Reagan Airport searching for business outside their normal territory, form a line that starts on North Capitol Street and winds around to H Street before it hits Union Station's garage. Some of the drivers read the paper, listen to the radio or chat with fellow drivers as their cabs creep forward.

Before the terrorists attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and left a gaping hole in the Pentagon, cabs would be in and out of Union Station within 15 to 20 minutes.

By 1:30 p.m. yesterday Seleshi Feseha made only three trips, compared with as many as the 50 fares he has on a normal weekday in September.

"Business is down," Mr. Feseha said. "There's not too many tourists."

Roaming the streets doesn't produce any more business, the cabbies said.

"If I don't make money, I can't afford to drive around the streets," said James Jones, who opts to wait in the line rather than cruise downtown for work. "It's really gotten to the point where we're wasting a lot of time."

By waiting in the line, however, the drivers are at least guaranteed some kind of work sooner or later, Mr. Jones said.

The veteran cabdrivers some with as much as 25 to 40 years experience say this is the worst the business has ever been.

"It's been bad," said James Covington, who's been driving a cab for 40 years. "I usually see more business than I'm getting."

The prospects are similarly bleak for the shops at Reagan Airport, which is the only major airport that remains closed after the terrorist attacks last week.

A manager at TGI Friday's in National Hall center said he tried to stay open last Wednesday, but gave up because there was no business and he couldn't get fresh shipments.

The airport's 60 stores and restaurants are now closed. Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III said Wednesday that shops in the airport are losing $145,000 a day.

The cabdrivers are hoping the airport will reopen soon.

"When National Airport opens, business will start again like it used to," Mr. Feseha said.

But at nearby Crystal City, business appears to be fine.

"It seems to be getting back to normal this week," said one manager at B. Dalton Booksellers.

Shop owners say Crystal City has always catered to businesspeople who work in the offices of the complex, and that a lack of visitors and tourists has very little impact on sales.

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