'Day Without Immigrants' squeezes Hill, Pentagon

A Day Without Immigrants Orig_00001718
A Day Without Immigrants Orig_00001718

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  • Hill and Pentagon eateries were closed Thursday
  • Restaurants around the city -- including power lunch hot spots -- were affected

Washington (CNN)Washington felt the pinch of the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" demonstrations Thursday, with government institutions, including the Capitol and Pentagon, affected by the general strike.

The disruption also hit DC-area restaurants, schools and businesses.
The Architect of the Capitol, which manages much of the support staff on the Hill and contracts with food services, also said it would have a modified schedule Thursday, and three dining options on the Hill were closed due to the demonstration.
    The Pentagon press office sent an email out saying the strike was affecting food concessions, closing the massive office building's Sbarro, Starbucks, Coffee Cart, Taco Bell, Qdoba, Burger King and Freshens.
    Meanwhile, BLT Prime, a restaurant inside the Trump International DC Hotel and a go-to for Trump staffers, was operating on a limited menu and reservations, and the sister restaurant, BLT Steak, which is located near the White House, was closed.
    Asked for response to the demonstrations or whether it suffered any staffing impacts, the White House replied in a statement: "The White House today celebrated the nomination of Cuban American Alex Acosta as the nominee for Secretary of Labor. Alex Acosta is the son of Cubans who emigrated as political exiles from Cuba."
    Clyde's Restaurant Group, which operates the popular White House-adjacent institution Old Ebbitt Grill, said on Wednesday that it anticipated its properties would remain open but could be affected by the demonstration.
    "It is going to be a difficult day for us," the company's president, Tom Meyer, said. "Immigrants are an integral part of our team; there is no doubt we will struggle. We have always loved, supported and cared for our employees, and tomorrow will be no different. We support their decision to stay home."
    A Teaism cafe located near the Chamber of Commerce and not far from the White House was operating, but posted a sign in the window saying it was impacted by the demonstration and asking for customer's patience, expressing support for team members who stayed home.
    The nationwide protests were largely organized by social media and word of mouth. The goal is to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to society, as the Trump administration continues to pursue enforcement policies that advocates fear will disrupt communities and the economy.
    The demonstrations come as Hill leaders met with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the Capitol Thursday afternoon to discuss recent enforcement actions that netted nearly 700 arrests, but concern Democrats and advocates for possibly expanding the targets beyond that of the Obama administration.
    Democrats who were present in the meeting said afterward they still had unanswered questions.
    New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez posted two Twitter videos, one in English and one in Spanish, from one of the closed restaurants on the Hill Thursday expressing solidarity.
    "The enormous contributions that immigrants make to this country are felt at every level," he said. "And today, Capitol Hill staffers got a real dosage of what it is not to have immigrants serving them as they do each and every day."
    Here is a list of some of the businesses participating in Thursday's action in Washington:
    Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is locked in a lawsuit with President Donald Trump for pulling his restaurant from the Trump hotel project in Washington over Trump's anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric, announced he would close most of his restaurants Thursday as part of the protest. Andrés announced his restaurants Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana would be closed, while China Chilcano would remain open for company staff to work.
    "In support of our people & #ADayWithoutImmigrants Thurs 2/16 we will not open @jaleo DC CC MD, @zaytinya or @oyameldc #ImmigrantsFeedAmerica," he tweeted.
    Sweetgreen, a chain of salad restaurants, said it would close all of its Washington locations in solidarity with its team members and Day Without Immigrants. In response to tweets, the chain said workers can use paid "impact hours" and still receive pay for Thursday.
    Andy Shallal, the founder of Busboys and Poets, a small local chain of bookstores and cafes, said his business would be closed "in solidarity w/ my brothers & sisters."
    Bar Pilar said it was planning to open with a skeleton crew, and serve Latin American-inspired dishes in solidarity with staff and immigrants. A spokeswoman said some staff have pledged their tips to coworkers participating in the protest, and some proceeds from cocktail sales will be donated to the American Immigration Council.
    John Andrade's restaurants, including Meridian Pint, Smoke and Barrel, Brookland Pint and Rosario, will be open, but "bring your own food" with the kitchens closed, Andrade said in a statement on Facebook.
    Washington fitness chain VIDA sent an email saying it would also be affected.
    "Immigrant workers make up an indispensable part of our VIDA community and the backbone of many of our daily operations," the email said. "We support our employees participation in the nationwide Day Without Immigrants movement tomorrow and as a result we have modified our operations wherever necessary."
    Schools also prepared. Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Northwest DC was closed Thursday for students and teachers participating in the protest, the school confirmed.
    DC Public Schools Chief John Davis emailed principals expressing respect for protests but insisting teachers and students were expected to be in class.
    "DCPS schools are and will continue to be safe places for all students and all people in our communities, regardless of immigration status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression," Davis wrote. "While some may plan to attend this week's walkout about immigration, all students and staff are expected to be in school throughout the day so that teaching and learning can continue. We highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where staff and students feel safe and secure and we respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest."