A Yorktown, Virginia, restaurant owner has joined the ranks of hundreds of Americans who are fighting back against the illogical and unreasonable federal government shutdown dictates.
When restaurant owner Glenn Helseth made the decision not to vacate his building when ordered to do so by the National Park Service (NPS), he became a lawbreaker. For more than a decade Helseth has operated the Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant in Yorktown inside the Cole Diggs House. Since the National Park Service owns the building, Helseth and his wife were given 48 hours to pack up their things and vacate the property. The couple and their staff are not federal employees, so once the government shutdown is over, they will not be getting any back pay. Just a few weeks of shuttered doors could cause irreparable damage to the restaurant’s employees and its business. Adding insult to injury, the couple also owns a restaurant on Jamestown Island, also federal land, and was ordered to close that one as well.’
“We’re upset on a number of levels, not the least of which is the impending financial doom that Carrot Tree faces,” Glenn Helseth said. “… I intend to serve everybody that wants to dine with me. I don’t intend to close my doors. I am occupying Carrot Tree Yorktown. … I’m serving Brunswick stew, ham biscuits, and carrot cake. If that gets me put in jail, I’m going to jail.”
Concerns voiced by his restaurant staff helped prompt his decision to defy the federal government. Going a single week without a paycheck was forcing many of the workers to worry not only about making rent, but about putting food on their table. Helseth sends the federal government a check each month for the use of the property and he receives no taxpayer funds or services.
Of course, it’s not the first controversial decision by the NPS or the government during the shutdown. Among the others:
- The National Park Service allowed an immigration rally and concert on the National Mall to continue while denying entrance to others at so many locations. A National Park Service staffer told CNN that the protestors were permitted to assemble on the closed piece of federal land because their First Amendment rights must be respected. The Camino Americano: Concert and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect was hosted by local and national Latino groups and the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.
- The bodies of four American service members who died in Afghanistan over the weekend will soon be arriving at Dover Air Force Base. The grieving families were denied immediate death benefits, which should have included a flight to the base to meet the remains of their loved ones. Private charities stepped in to make sure that all the families could fly to Dover Air Force Base and bring the fallen patriots home.
- The Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a privately funded park that sits on federal land, yet it was ordered to close, as well. The employees on the 18th century living history farm are not federal, so no back pay will be coming their way, either. The farm survives on donations and fundraising, and one of their biggest events of the year will occur during the shutdown. Anna Eberly, managing director of the farm, reports that this is the first time that the farm has been ordered to close when a government shutdown occurs. In the end, the government reversed course and allowed the park to remain open.
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer worked with local businesses and groups to cover the costs necessary to keep the Grand Canyon open for the 4.5 million people who visit the natural wonder each year. When Governor Brewer contacted Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga to discuss the funds necessary to keep the facility open, he turned her down flat, holding the Obama administration line on closures.
How do you feel about the government’s positions on what is closed and not closed?