Defiant N.C. innkeeper relents, will close due to federal shutdown

Reuters
National Park workers remove barricade at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as it reopens to the public in Washington
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National Park workers remove a barricade at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as it reopens to the public in Washington October 17, 2013. The White House moved quickly early on Thursday to get the U.S. government back up and running after a 16-day shutdown, directing hundreds of thousands of workers to return to work. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - The operator of a 51-room inn located on U.S. government-owned land in North Carolina abandoned his defiant stance on Thursday to keep the property open despite being ordered to close as part of the federal government shutdown.

Bruce O'Connell, whose family has run the Pisgah Inn on a concession contract along the Blue Ridge Parkway since the late 1970s, had initially refused to send guests home by the 6 p.m. deadline imposed by the National Park Service.

But just hours ahead of the deadline, the inn's general manager said the hotel and its restaurant, gift shop and country store, located in buildings and on land owned by the U.S. government, would close "due to the fact that a resolution of the shutdown becomes more of a distant promise every day."

"We regret the inconvenience and disappointment of our visitors, but we hope for their understanding," manager Rob Miller said.

O'Connell's earlier pledge to defy the government shutdown drew more than 1,000 "likes" on the inn's Facebook page.

National parks across the United States have been closed to visitors since a partial federal government shutdown began on Tuesday due to a standoff in Congress over the budget.

Tourists can still drive along the scenic, 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, but visitor centers, campgrounds and restrooms are off-limits.

October is the peak season for the area's vibrant fall foliage, and travelers such as Julie Andreacola of Indian Trail, North Carolina, book hotel rooms months in advance.

"The government is taking punitive action on a private business at the peak of their season," said Andreacola, who had weekend reservations at the inn. "It should not be permitted."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone, Leslie Adler and Ken Wills)

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