[dehai-news] (News 8) Taxi Meters, Economy Trouble Ethiopian Restaurant Owners


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Sun Dec 07 2008 - 20:58:34 EST


Taxi Meters, Economy Trouble Ethiopian Restaurant Owners

posted 7:19 pm Fri November 28, 2008

WASHINGTON - While economic woes are hurting many businesses, one group of
restaurateurs are suffering particularly badly.

Owners of restaurants in the D.C. neighborhood known as Little Ethiopia,
centered around 9th and U streets, say they are suffering a 20- or
30-percent drop in sales. A large percentage of their customers -- as much
as 75 percent -- are cab drivers from Ethiopia or Eretria. The drivers are
hurting economically and it's hurting the businesses that serve them.

"We lose at lot of customers," said Derege Zewdie, owner of Habesha Market.
"Plus the customer they used to order one for each. Now they are sharing one
plate for two people."

Drivers blame two things: the economy and Mayor Fenty's fare structure for
taxicabs under the new time-and-distance meters.

"We are working more hours, we are making less money," said Gewedensh
Asfaha, who says he no longer has money to spent in restaurants. Instead, he
goes home, he said.

One example drivers cite is runs to Dulles International Airport. The new
fare structure pays $14 dollars less than the old system, drivers complain.

"I don't go out like I used to because I cannot afford it," said Domenico
Emmanuel, a cab driver. "If I don't make it, how am I going to entertain?"

That leaves business owners in a bind.

"It's very hard to pay all of my bills because of, uh, most of my customers
are taxi drivers," said Haile Daniel, a restaurant owner.

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