These NC restaurants are providing free food, free beer to furloughed federal workers

As the shutdown of the federal government nears the end of its first month with no resolution in sight, the obvious occurred to Fullsteam Brewery owner Sean Lilly Wilson: There are a lot of people who really could use a beer.

Thousands of furloughed federal employees are caught in the middle of a political impasse, including 7,800 in North Carolina, according to The Washington Post. They’re all going without paychecks until the shutdown is over.

A few Triangle businesses have stepped in with offers for those workers, some for free food and drink, some a temporary job.

Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery is offering federal workers (who show ID) a free daily sandwich as long as the shutdown goes on. It had offered a free daily beer, but ran afoul of state alcohol restrictions. Fullsteam announced its deal on its social media accounts, calling the gesture a small reprieve for federal workers impacted by the shutdown.

“Fullsteam has a track record of looking at the broader picture and responding to community needs,” Wilson said. “We kept hearing more and more stories of people furloughed and uncertain how long this will continue.

Wilson said there’s no expiration on the deal, but it’s one he’d like to see end sooner rather than later.

“I want to cancel this offer as soon as possible,” Wilson said. “It’s not an economic concern; I want our government back to functioning in a near normal capacity.”

Trophy Brewing in Raleigh has led the way locally with its offer to federal workers with government ID: a free meal at any of its locations. That means a small pizza for one worker or a large one for two at Trophy’s pizzeria (at 827 W. Morgan St.), and a free sandwich and side at Trophy Tap + Table (at 225 S. Wilmington St.) and bottle shop State of Beer (at 401-A Hillsborough St).

“We just wanted to let furloughed workers know we haven’t forgotten about them,” Trophy co-owner Chris Powers said in a phone interview. “TSA, FDA workers provide necessary services for our country. They’re our friends and neighbors and come into the restaurants on a regular basis, and their lifestyle is impacted by the infighting going on in Washington.”

Powers said Trophy’s operations are also impacted by the shutdown. As long as the government is closed, breweries can’t release new beers, he said, as the the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau must approve can labels on all new beers.

“It’s a small pain for us,” Powers said.

If it’s pasta you’re craving, Romano’s Macaroni Grill is offering a free Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs + Spaghetti from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily; you just have show your federal ID. According to the company’s Facebook post the deal is valid through Jan. 23 or until the shutdown ends. And in response to a question on the post, Romano’s clarified that the meal is for the furloughed employee only, but you can get your meal to go, which would allow for sharing. The only Macaroni Grill in the Triangle is at Triangle Town Center on Sumner Boulevard in Raleigh.

The Fox and Hound restaurant at North Hills in Raleigh is offering a free pepperoni pizza on Wednesdays. Again, you’ll need to show your federal ID. The deal is available at Fox and Hound restaurants in Wilmington, Charlotte, Pineville, and Richmond, Va., as well.

The Third Place Coffee Shop in Raleigh will give furloughed government workers a free 12 ounce coffee.

Mexican restaurant Dos Taquitos on U.S. 70 in Raleigh is offering a meal to federal workers every day the shutdown continues.

“We want to thank you for your service and hope that we can ease a tiny bit of the burden that has been placed on you because of the shutdown,” the restaurant posted on its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Durham Distillery announced Monday that it has some temporary work for any local furloughed federal employees. The maker of the popular Conniption Gin and canned cocktails said it could use some help on the bottling line this week.

Owner Melissa Katrincic wrote on Facebook that the shutdown had impacted her sister and brother-in-law as forestry workers in Idaho, which made her think of how she could help workers here.

By 10 a.m. Wednesday, she wrote that had 20-plus people contact her and that she is trying to schedule shifts for them. She put a call out to other breweries to see if similar part-time work could be available.

“We will do this for as long as we can too, so reach out when you need us,” she wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

With no apparent end to the shutdown on the horizon, Powers dismissed the notion that it could be a hit to Trophy’s bottom line if the shutdown stretches for months.

“That’s the least of our concern,” Powers said. “We’re doing our best to help our friends in immediate need right in front of us right now.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 23, Dame’s Chicken & Waffles in Morrisville prepared a meal for TSA workers at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Co-owner Randy Wadsworth said the company is trying to arrange something similar for TSA workers in Greensboro, where it also has a location.

“We want to make sure we’re taking care of them since they’ve taken such good care of us over the years,” Wadsworth said of TSA workers.

Know of food, drink or restaurant deals for furloughed workers? Email or

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.