Restaurants in Federal Spaces Forced to Close Doors Amid Government Shutdown

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Government employees aren't the only ones out of work due to the shutdown. Independently-owned restaurants on national parks and in federal buildings are facing difficult decisions on what to do in the face of empty dining rooms and little recourse.

As the shutdown stretches on, the financial consequences of forced closures are becoming increasingly dire. City Tavern, a Philadelphia restaurant inside Independence National Historical Park, estimates a long-term closure could cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars." 

National Park rangers have reportedly been ordered in some areas to keep customers out of businesses that have attempted to stay open. According to The Washington Times, concessions operations are being forced to close, while leases, such as hotels, can remain open. Owners have found the discrepancy confusing, as select hotels, roads and concessionaires in national parks and on federal property have continued their services, while others have been forced to shut down. However, even private businesses that have remained open have suffered due to lack of customers.

Related: With Shutdown and Shootout, Washington D.C. Businesses Report Significant Losses

While most government employees have the promise of back pay after the shutdown ends, restaurant employees lack such assistance. Some chains, such as McDonald's, have promised to pay employees for the hours they were scheduled to work. However, others, such as Subway, have not at this point reported plans to compensate workers for their forced leave of absence. (Subway did not immediately respond to's inquiries.)

Other restaurants are simply refusing to close. Carrot Tree Kitchens, located in the Cole Digges House in Yorktown, Va., which is owned and operated by the National Park Service, posted on the restaurant's Facebook page on Monday, "OCCUPY NPS." The restaurant opened for lunch on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET, despite government orders to close up shop. Meanwhile, another shutdown holdout, San Francisco's Cliff House, was forced to close for the duration of the shutdown today after a two day fight to reopen the restaurant.

What should restaurateurs do in this tricky situation? Stay open despite government orders, shut down but pay employees or go on an unpaid vacation?

Related: Starbucks' Free Coffee Promotion Isn't Actually About Ending the Government Shutdown

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