Thursday morning was slow for Nick Williams, manager of a mostly empty Nobi Public House in Webster. The lunch crowd had yet to arrive, and this time of year tends to be quieter than usual, Williams said.

But with so many of the restaurant’s regulars furloughed during a federal government shutdown, business has been even slower than usual, Williams said.

“The regulars you are used to seeing, you aren’t seeing as often,” he said.

While Galveston County is home to more than 2,500 federal employees affected by the shutdown — from U.S. Coast Guard to NASA workers — its effects are most apparent in the northern parts of the county and in Harris County, near Johnson Space Center.

NASA employees account for lots of regular business and, while some days are busier than others, it’s generally been slower, said Frankie Camera, an owner of Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant in Webster.

Federal employees account for between 65 percent and 70 percent of his business, Williams said.

The shutdown, which entered its 34th day on Thursday, began in late December when President Donald Trump said he would refuse to sign a measure to keep the government funded unless it included $5 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives refused add that money.

Locally, that means lots of NASA engineers have been unable to work and projects are stacking up, said Rodney Rocha, an engineer at Johnson Space Center for almost 45 years, who was eating at Frenchie’s on Thursday.

“It’s frustrating,” Rocha said. “I’d rather be working and producing.”

Rocha is part of a group of federal employees termed “accepted,” which means they are working on some projects that must be done, he said. But Rocha isn’t being paid, he said.

Most of that work, however, has been limited to teleconferencing about ongoing projects, Rocha said.

While Rocha is in a better financial position than some of his colleagues he has read about, he still enjoys checking in with fellow NASA employees and knowing that everyone is in the same situation, he said.

“This is the longest, most intractable shutdown I’ve ever been through,” said Rocha, while saying he didn’t want to comment on the politics of the situation.

The space program suffers the longer the shutdown continues, Rocha said.

A splintered U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected competing Democratic and Republican plans for reopening the government, leaving the clock ticking in what is already the longest-ever closure of federal agencies, according to The Associated Press.

The votes could weaken Trump’s position in negotiations, however, as the Democratic proposal got two more votes than the Republican plan after six Republicans defected and voted for the opposing plan, according to The Associated Press.

The Senate first rejected the Republican plan reopening government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he’s demanding in a 50-47 vote, 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed, according to The Associated Press.

Senators then voted 52-44 in favor of the Democratic alternative that would have funded agencies through Feb. 8 with no money for a wall, according to The Associated Press.

As local businesses and workers await news about the end of the shutdown, several local business owners are reaching out to furloughed workers.

The Art of Coffee Clear Lake, for instance, by word of mouth is offering workers who show a federal ID a free cup of house coffee, said Mona McGinnis, a barista.

That has actually increased business for the coffee shop and café, McGinnis said.

“We had four people come in earlier and show their badges,” McGinnis said. “It’s been crazy every day.”

Federal workers account for about 20 percent of the business’ customers, McGinnis said.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230;



(17) comments

Bailey Jones

Unlike civil servants, these business will not be reimbursed for their losses. It's time for the president to free his hostages.

Carlos Ponce

A bill was introduced in the House to pay furloughed Federal workers. It failed three times.
First time all but 6 Democrats voted against it.
Second time all but 10 Democrats voted against it.
Third time all but 13 Democrats voted against it.
Losing Democrats in each subsequent vote, Pelosi cancelled Friday as a workday for the House.
Why do most Democrats not want furloughed Federal employees to be paid?
They're going to get their money - eventually. Why not now? To quote Hillary, "What difference at this point does it make?"
Who's holding whom hostage, Bailey?
It's time for Pelosi to free her hostages!

Rusty Schroeder

These businesses just have to learn to exist, just like the South Texas towns that have had to adapt when the oil boom has slowed to a trickle. It doesn't help when the Speaker of the House refuses to negotiate and adjourns congress at noon on Thursday. These representatives will be getting an extended weekend off, while GETTING PAID. Why don't we ask these businesses and employees affected by the shutdown what they think of that?

Anne Reiswerg

Trump just announced he will reopen the government with no money for the wall. Ann Coulter must be slitting her wrists.

Carlos Ponce

It is only temporary, Anne. After 3 weeks it's back to shut down or a National Emergency would be declared. Some Democrats and Republicans got together and asked Trump to give them three weeks to find a solution. This is similar to what Trump offered Pelosi. Trump asked Nancy Pelosi if she would bring up a vote for border security within 30 days if he signed a bill to reopen the government. Pelosi said "no". Trump said "Bye-bye" and left.
Don't worry Anne Reiswerg. The wall WILL be built. Hopefully it will be a bi-partisan effort of cooperation and compromise. Are those two words even in your vocabulary?
"slitting her wrists"????? Posting that is not very civil.[ohmy]

Dan Freeman

No need for a National Emergency after 8 weeks.

BTW what happened to Trump's promise to gladly take the blame for a government shutdown over his proposed border wall. And that Mexico will pay for it.

The Man folded like a cheap tent.

George Croix

Yeah, buddy!!
Thank goodness the opportunity to stop importing a hundred billion or so bucks a year of illegal alien ‘entitlement’ spending dependents has whiffed with Strike One.
Now the same folks can go back to moaning about school funding problems at the same time we HELP create more problems.
Well, nothing new there.
The Pres. got his but- handed to him on this first pitch.
If he ends up the same lind of mealy mouthed poll watcher that we got rid of, then Daisy Duck could re-run in 2020, and beat him this time....[beam][beam]
No spin allowed - Round One goes to the Open Bordets side.....

Carlos Ponce

"The Man folded like a cheap tent." No, Dan, the WALL will be funded.
I will dedicate the following song to Speaker Pelosi:
" I fought the wall and the wall won,
I fought the wall and the wall won!"

George Croix

Well, the Pres. hopefully learned he’s got to get some Botox if he hopes to stare down Nancy....
The SOU speech NOW should include lessons on how to survive a cave in....
Anyway, this three week concession WILL put the truth or the lie, for sure, to the Dems claims to negotiate in good faith IF the shutdown stops. Now to see if that was just another ‘ Promise to Reagan deception.
Personally, I have learned from long observation that expecting Congress to keep any word is like expecting a crocodile not to bite your arm in its mouth...,
Now IF this concession does not get real results and real border security, physical barriers, and if the Pres. THEN doesn’t declare a national emergency and get going on it, then he won’t be able to find 6 people outside of a drunks holding tank that would be in a support base....

Dan Freeman

What happened to Trump claiming credit for the shut down? Why have a shut down if Mexico will pay for the wall? How can there be an National Emergency after 8 weeks?

Is it possible that DJ Trump will do anything to draw attention away from the Roger Stone indictment? It is number 38 on the play list.

Anne Reiswerg

The shutdown blame stays on Trump, Dan. His approval is at an historic low.
And Mitch needs to grow a pair.
Let me apologize in advance for offending Carlos.

Dan Freeman

Mr. Ponce is older than me, so do not worry, old men go to sleep early.

Carlos Ponce

No, Dan, I believe you are older than me.

Carlos Ponce

Trump accepts RESPONSIBILITY for the shut down. Good move to put the lives of Americans ahead of petty politics.
There is a trade deficit of $71 billion, deficit of $18 billion with Canada. USMCA will not exactly level the playing field but will reduce it substantially. Resulting tax money from US business and salaries will more than pay for the wall. But the money goes into the general fund. It must be allocated by Congress beginning with the House.
The National Emergency has existed for years, Dan.
Please read the Roger Stone indictment.
Although Trump and Trump Campaign is mentioned throughout, there is nothing there that shows candidate Trump did anything illegal.
It is said you can indict a "ham sandwich." This week Roger Stone is the "ham sandwich". He's guilty of a process crime and will be found guilty of that. But as far as Trump and the Trump campaign -zero, zip, nada.
Nothing there, Dan. Put away your pitchfork and torch.[beam]

George Croix

Dan, do you think Stone is a worse person to associate with than Bill Ayers was?🤔

George Croix

Declaring a national emergency too late is better than pretending there isn’t one BUT at least this time we’d not be calling that emergency the ‘JV’, or have todeem’ it to be one.
Round one to your side, unfortunately for my grandkids...

George Croix

The Mexicans are not yet “shovel ready” Dan. 😀😀😏🤑

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.