Here’s How to Buy a Beer for Furloughed Government Employees

An online beer fund is helping out DC workers (and breweries) affected by the government shutdown

Taps at DC Brau. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Plenty of restaurants are offering free food and discounts for federal employees during the government shutdown. José Andrés is even setting up an emergency kitchen to feed workers and their families who are missing paychecks. Want to make your own small gesture? There’s now a fund making it easy for anyone to buy furloughed workers a beer.

Mess Hall food incubator founder Al Goldberg and food writer Nevin Martell came up with the idea for “Pay It Furloughed” while lamenting the feeling of helplessness surrounding the government shutdown at dinner last week.

“It just seems like this big monolithic problem that certainly can’t be solved by your average every day American,” Martell says. Meanwhile, Goldberg noted that breweries have also suffered from the shutdown as government approval for new beer labels has come to a halt.

Why not marry those ideas, they thought?

“If I was sitting next to somebody at a bar and they were griping to me about having to work without being paid, I would probably buy them a beer,” says Martell. (Full disclosure: Martell is a Washingtonian contributor and a friend.)

Goldberg and Martell worked with app development agency 3Advance to get a website up quickly and collectively added $1,000 of their own to get the fund started. Within 24 hours, more than 450 total beers have been donated.

Donors can fund beers at for $7.50 a pop. (The price includes the beer itself, sales tax, credit card processing fee, and the fund’s site maintenance.) Any federal government employee or contractor can then head to one of the participating breweries—which so far include Atlas Brew Works and DC Brau—to redeem as many beers as they want. (Don’t forget to tip!) Goldberg and Martell are working to get additional breweries on board and possibly also some kind of food option.

If the beer fund has money left when the shutdown ends, federal employees will still be able to continue to get brews for seven days after they receive back pay. And if there’s still money left after that? It will remain for the next shutdown, Martell says, “which sadly will probably be sooner rather than later.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.