Bruce O’Connell knew what would happen with the government shutdown. As the owner of an inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, he received a notice about the shutdown procedures that would occur last week — and he’s been through it before.
This time though, he has rangers barring cars from entering his parking lot.
O’Connell has been the owner of Pisgah Inn nearly 25 miles from Asheville for 35 years. He was around during the 1996 shutdown in Bill Clinton’s presidency.
But something about this one feels different, he told TheBlaze Friday afternoon.
“I was 20 years younger then and I had a lot to lose,” O’Connell, now 60 years old, said. “Now, I’ve got a son and I feel like I’ve got more to lose.”
He’s not talking from a fiscal standpoint — although this is the inn’s busiest month of the year — but from a philosophical standpoint.
O’Connell decided to stay open earlier this week to provide food, bathrooms and safety to people traveling on the parkway, which the National Park Service kept open because it’s a thoroughfare.
Then on Thursday at 6 p.m., O’Connell said rangers showed up at the inn.
“Looking at uniformed law enforcement with a gun, you do different things,” O’Connell said, noting that he didn’t feel strong armed or intimidated but out of respect for their position, decided to cease operations at their direction.
Then, he slept on it. Waking up Friday morning, he said he was “basically fired up with our country’s government.”
And he decided to reopen again today at 11:30 a.m.
“Guests started streaming in,” he said.
But by 12:30 p.m. a ranger was on the scene, red lights flashing, blocking the Pisgah Inn’s parking lot and turning people away.
Several minutes of video was taken of the ranger at the inn’s entrance. At one point, an SUV drives up and its traveler can be heard saying “awwwww” in frustration after presumably being informed by the ranger that the inn was closed due to the shutdown.
“He is turning guests away from a private business right now,” Rob Miller, the inn’s general manager said while filming the scene. “This is the federal government turning guests away from a private business.”
Watch the video (H/T: Sean Hannity Show):
O’Connell said he houses employees on site and they’ll continue to be fed. He’s taking the shutdown as an opportunity to do some maintenance. But at some point, a decision must be made — he might have to send his employees away to find other work and close early for the season. Generally, he said they close and winterize the inn on October 31. He’s not sure when he’ll make such a call, but he could give it about a week.
As for the financial losses with the inn being closed during the beginning of autumn’s colorful season, O’Connell said it’s “irrelevant.”
Although it’s a “big ouch” financially, he said, “what this revealed to me is a harbinger of things to come if we don’t get our government under control.”
As for the present, O’Connell said he thinks the rangers plan to stay outside the inn overnight, but, quite frankly, O’Connell is OK with that. He thinks with a relatively empty inn during what would usually be a season, the rangers might provide some extra security.
“The rangers are caught in a system they can’t get out of. They’re obligated to follow orders and are not the problem — it’s all about the process,” O’Connell said.
This story has been updated.