A restaurant owner who says he would rather go to jail than stop serving stew and biscuits defied a National Park Service order and opened his doors Tuesday morning.
“I’ve already paid the insurance bill for the month of October. I’m paying utilities on the building right now. I’m paying for the electricity to run the security system on the building I can’t use,” Glenn Helseth, manager of the Carrot Tree restaurant in Yorktown, Va., told a local newspaper. “We’re here, and we’re going to serve the public, just as we were contracted to do.”
Helseth’s wife, Debi Helseth, owns the restaurant which is in the 1720 Cole Diggs House, a historical structure owned by the National Park Service.
“I’m serving Brunswick stew, ham biscuits and carrot cake,” Helseth said. “If that gets me put in jail, I’m going to jail.”
No law enforcement personnel showed up at his restaurant during its open hours yesterday.
All National Park Service facilities other than those deemed “essential,” such as law-enforcement, were ordered closed October 1 due to the shutdown of the federal government. The Helseths were told to close the restaurant at that time, which they did.
But when he encountered a patron whose family told him that she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday at the Carrot Tree, "that's when my resolve to open up began,” said Glenn Helseth.
Centenarian Toni Betourne has celebrated each of her last 11 birthdays at the restaurant.
“I coudn’t deny her,” said Helseth.
The restaurant remained open from 11 am until 1 pm, but did not charge customers. However, Helseth planned to reopen today with normal hours and prices.
“I’m facing huge bills that I need October’s revenues to pay,” Helseth said. “The opportunity to make money is now. Some employees are already deciding which utilities to not pay.”
Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, whose office is adjacent to the Carrot Tree, wrote a letter to the Park Service asking that the restaurant and other businesses on Park Service property be allowed to remain open.
Wittman’s own office is also in a National Park Service building but has nonetheless remained open.
Wittman voted in congress for a bill that made funding the government conditional on cutting off funds to implement the Affordable Care Act, the health care law popularly known as Obamacare.
That bill did not pass the Senate, leading to the shutdown.
SOURCES: Daily Press, WilliamsburgYorktown Daily, Fox News, Congressman Rob Wittman