A quiet act of civil disobedience is being played out in Yorktown, Va. More than two centuries after the Battle of Yorktown, where Gen. George Washington won a decisive victory against the British, a couple of restaurateurs hope to defeat their own oppressors.
For 11 years, Glenn and Debi Helseth have operated the Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant in Yorktown’s historic Cole Digges House, which is owned by the U.S. government and was officially shut down by the National Park Service on Oct. 1, according to the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.
The house reopened Tuesday 11 a.m., partly to celebrate a favorite customer’s 100th birthday
“I intend to serve everybody that wants to dine with me,” Helseth told Fox News. “I don’t intend to close my doors. I am occupying Carrot Tree Yorktown.”
The decision to reopen was based as much on desperation as it was protest.
“I’m facing huge bills that I need October’s revenues to pay,” Glenn Helseth said. “The opportunity to make money is now. Just like the United States government, the Carrot Tree is facing its own pending financial crisis, and we’re not going to be able to get out of it without running our business. Some employees are already deciding which utilities to not pay.”
Helseth said he reopened only after he and his congressman made numerous phone calls to Department of the Interior, which manages the National Park Service. All of them were unanswered.
The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reported:
The Carrot Tree’s Yorktown location at the 1720 Cole Digges House is near the Yorktown office of U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R), which has remained open throughout the shutdown.
Wittman sent a letter Oct. 3 to Dan Smith, the superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park, asking him to allow the concessioners in the park to reopen despite the shutdown. A spokesperson for Wittman said the congressman’s office has yet to receive a reply.
“It is unfortunate that the National Park Service has taken steps to compel businesses to close their doors during this important tourist season,” Wittman wrote in the letter. “I assure you that I have and will continue to support efforts to fund the government, with the House of Representatives taking action [on Oct. 2] to vote to fund the National Park Service and ensure our nation’s monument sand parks remain open to the public.
“I write to ask that you would treat all tenants within National Park Service Property the same by allowing businesses to open and service their customers, just like I am able to serve my constituents.”
Although the Park Service closed the building, the Helseths are still expected to pay rent, utilities and insurance.
“I don’t wish to take a stand against my government,” Helseth said, according to Fox. “I’ve always been very proud of my country. [But] I don’t agree with what’s happening. I can no longer abide by what’s happening.”
Watch the video from the Hampton Roads, Va., Daily Press