Revolt against Park Service shutdown falters in San Francisco

Brendan Bordelon | Contributor

Attempts to defy two shutdown-related closures in San Francisco ended in failure Wednesday, with the National Park Service threatening fines.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Cliff House, a privately-owned and operated restaurant situated within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, received an initial shutdown order last Wednesday. But as closures dragged through the weekend and the restaurant’s 170 employees remained out of work, the owners decided to risk ignoring the Park Service’s command.

“In response to the Federal Government shutdown, the Cliff House has reached a difficult decision to reopen its doors, Monday, October 7, 2013,” the owners said in a statement. “While this bold move challenges the shutdown order, the Cliff House must remain operational.”

“As a successful, independent and privately-owned business that does not depend on any tax dollars or federal funding, the Cliff House must have income,” they added.

Although San Francisco park authorities were allegedly supportive of the Cliff House, their Washington bosses had other ideas. After unspecified threats from the Park Service, the owners informed patrons that the restaurant would again be closing, this time indefinitely, on Tuesday at midnight.

“While the local Park Service officials have been sympathetic and helpful in relaying Cliff House’s concerns to Park Service Headquarters in Washington DC,” a second statement read, “the decisions are driven by DC, which instructed that the facility must close . . . the Cliff House had no choice but to close or face severe consequences.”

The owners did not explain what “severe consequences” meant, but the federal government may have threatened to pull the 150-year-old restaurant’s “concession” to operate on federal land if they refused to comply.

The owners added that the Cliff House would incur losses of around $10,000 a day until the shutdown is resolved.

Just yards from the Cliff House is Ocean Beach, a vast tract of sand dividing western San Francisco from the Pacific Ocean. The beach is normally open and unattended at all times, and local art nonprofit LEAP had planned to hold their 30th Anniversary Sandcastle Contest there despite the shutdown order.

But on Wednesday LEAP revealed that threats by the Park Service forced them to postpone the event. “We were told that we could be fined for trespassing and that our permit was no longer valid,” a letter sent to participating schools explained. “We were also told that our event could be shut down by park rangers or by San Francisco police.”

“This is very upsetting news for all of us who have worked so hard to put the event together,” the letter continued.

Thousands of people were expected to attend the event, many of them schoolchildren. A local politician told The San Francisco Appeal that the decision led to “probably hundreds of very sad and unhappy kids.”

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