Ferry service helps Alcatraz escape from government shutdown

NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The lights are on at Alacatraz Island, the famous federal prison turned tourist destination in San Francisco Bay, even though the U.S. government has shut down. Private business is stepping up.

Tour boat operator Hornblower Cruises & Events is subsidizing Golden Gate National Recreational Area, a park to which the Alcatraz Island belongs, to the tune of $48,000 for security personnel and utilities at Alcatraz over the next few days.

SEE ALSO: Here is what is happening with the government shutdown on Monday

It is one example of the risks some businesses that rely on the federal government must take to keep operations going.

"We are essentially funding the park," Terry MacRae, chairman and chief executive officer of Hornblower Inc, said in a phone interview on Sunday.

The park service did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

An acrimonious split over the issue of immigration between Democrats and U.S. President Donald Trump led the Democrats to refuse to support another short-term government funding extension last week.

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Scenes from the night of the January 2018 government shutdown
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Scenes from the night of the January 2018 government shutdown
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with Democratic leaders on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) arrives at Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd R) with Democratic leaders leaves after a news conference on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with Democratic leaders on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks on a phone outside the room during Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney talks with reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Reporters wait to interview White House budget director Mick Mulvaney at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) talks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (L) as they leave the Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) arrives at Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - January 19: Pizza boxes are seen outside the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as legislators work into the night to avert a government shutdown at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walk out of a Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate.(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks to Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) walks to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) walks to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) talks on the phone at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), at left, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), center, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), at right, walk to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) walk out of a Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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Funding for federal agencies ran out at midnight on Friday and the shutdown will enter a third day on Monday after Senate negotiators failed to make a deal late on Sunday.

Although economists and investors alike are confident the shut down will barely dent the U.S. economy, business owners such as MacRae say the impact is all too real - and painful.

Hornblower, which also runs a ferry service to and from New York's Statue of Liberty, another famous tourist destination that is a symbol of the American democracy, employs between 400 and 450 workers for its Alcatraz Cruises and Statue Cruises, MacRae said.

"It's a struggle for us to maintain those jobs if we don't have the park open," he said.

The Statue of Liberty was closed at the weekend but will reopen on Monday, funded by the New York state government, although MacRae said some damage had already been done.

"Even when you throw the switch and tell people you are back up operating, they've already changed their plans. So the visitation will be reduced. And people have asked for refunds," he said.

Opening hours at Alcatraz will be reduced and MacRae predicted that daily traffic would fall to between 5,000 and 5,500, from the usual 6,000 to 7,000.

6 PHOTOS
History of Alcatraz
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History of Alcatraz
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1900: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
View along a cell block in Alcatraz Penitentiary, San Francisco, California, March 20, 1911. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
A police mug shot of Canadian-born Gangster Alvin 'Creepy' Karpis (1907 - 1979), circa 1930. Best known for his alliance with the Barker gang in the U.S. in the early 1930s, Karpis was the last so-called 'Public Enemy' to be arrested and spent longer (25 years) in prison on Alcatraz Island than any other inmate there. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1933: A photograph of Jewish-American gangster Irving Wexler, aka Waxey Gordon, who was convicted of income tax evasion in 1933. He was released, but later convicted of selling narcotics and sent to Alcatraz, where he died in 1952. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
View dated 1930's of the Alcatraz island and penitentiary, in the San Francisco Bay. From the mid 1930's until the mid 1960's, Alcatraz ('the Rock') was America's premier maximum-security prison, the final stop for the nation's most incorrigible inmates, including Al Capone. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
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In 2013, when the U.S. government was last shut down due to another stalemate, California-based Hornblower incurred losses of between $500,000 and $1 million and put between 30 and 50 of its employees on furlough, MacRae said.

This time, thanks to better cooperation between the company and National Park Service, the government body that oversees the park, losses should be capped at $500,000, assuming the San Francisco park resumes full operations in the next few days.

The ferry service will have to furlough workers if the shutdown continues for a week or more. It has insurance for such events but it doesn't kick in unless a shutdown lasts 30 days.

"It's silly that grown adults that we send to Washington to represent us can't figure out how to get together and avoid this," MacRae said. "If this isn't resolved within a few days, this would escalate dramatically."

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Peter Henderson and Paul Tait)

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