“I am now occupying the building at this time.”
And with that one decision – restaurant owner Glenn Helseth joined the ranks of Americans who’ve decided to defy the strong-arm tactics of the National Park Service.
For the past 11 years Helseth and his wife have operated the Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant inside the historic Cole Digges House in Yorktown, Va.
The National Park Service owns and operates the building. So when the government shut down on Oct. 1, the Helseths were given 48 hours to pack up and move out.
The couple also owns a restaurant on Jamestown Island. They had to close that restaurant after the National Park Service blocked access to the island.
“We’re upset on a number of levels – not the least of which is the impending financial doom that Carrot Tree faces,” Glenn told me.
At least 20 of his longtime employees are facing the unemployment line. They can’t make rent and some are faced with choosing between buying food or buying medicine.
So Glenn decided it was time to take some action – and at 11 a.m. ET he reopened the Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant – in defiance of the federal government.
“I intend to serve everybody that wants to dine with me,” he said. “I don’t intend to close my doors. I am occupying Carrot Tree Yorktown.”
Glenn said he is well aware that he is breaking the law – but he told me enough is enough.
“I’m serving Brunswick stew, ham biscuits and carrot cake,” he said. “If that gets me put in jail, I’m going to jail.”
Glenn said it just doesn’t make sense to close down the restaurant – especially since it’s a money-maker.
“I’m making money for the government,” he said. “I send them a check every month.”
But he also pointed out that even though the building is technically closed – he’s still required to maintain insurance, utilities and rent. He also has to pay for the building’s security system – even though the NPS kicked them out.
“I don’t wish to take a stand against my government,” he said. “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.”
And Glenn has a message for our lawmakers.
“They talk about this [shutdown] having a minimal impact on the economy,” he said. “They need to come down to my level and look at my people and say, ‘We’re going to shut you down. You cannot make any money because we can’t administrate.’”
He said Congress is putting politics ahead of people.
“Let them come and lay my people off,” he said. “Let them come and tell my staff they are out of work.”
Glenn decided to make his stand against the government when he bumped into some of his regular customers over the weekend.
One of his favorite customers is Mama – and she turned 100 years old Tuesday.
“I told them to bring her to my restaurant,” he said. “She’s 100-years-old. She wants to eat Brunswick stew, ham biscuits and carrot cake.”
And so today at 11 a.m. Mama was seated in the dining room of the Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant where she was served a bowl of Brunswick stew, a ham biscuit and a slice of birthday carrot cake.
“Let the pomposities in Washington tell her 'no,'” Glenn said.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Where liberty is, there is my country.”
And in the case of Patriot Glenn Helseth, where liberty is, there is my carrot cake.