It’s official: Congress can’t even run a restaurant.
According to an independent audit released last week, the Senate Restaurants Revolving Fund, which includes the exclusive Senate Dining Room, operated at a loss during fiscal years 2005 and 2006, and to cover the losses, Congress just threw in some of your money.
The audit, conducted by Clifton Gunderson LLP on behalf of the Government Accountability Office, found that Congress appropriated $850,000 each of those two years to cover total operating losses of $1.7 million.
In addition, the Architect of the Capitol and the Government Printing Office provided the Senate Restaurants with equipment worth over $320,000, and “other support services, such as space and utilities, the value of which cannot be readily determined,” according to the GAO report (PDF).
The Senate Dining Room is billed as Washington’s most exclusive restaurant, where the food, “exact to a fault” as one review has it, takes a back seat to overhearing what Washington’s top power brokers are up to, according to another restaurant reviewer. The prices charged, however, were “dirt cheap by local restaurant standards,” the unnamed reviewer wrote, while the five-star executive chef trained at some of the fancier restaurants in the world before coming to the Senate Dining Room, talks about his standards for “quality and service.”
And even though your tax dollars are covering the persistent losses of this operation, you can’t dine there without a letter from your senator.
In addition to the Senate Dining Room, the Senate Restaurants Revolving Fund also includes five dining areas open to the public, as well as catering services.