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Shutdown Showdown: SF’s Cliff House Defies Obama Admin, Reopens — and Is Forced to Close AGAIN

SF's Cliff House defies administration, reopens — and is forced to close again.

by
Zombie

Bio

October 9, 2013 - 7:38 am

The saga of San Francisco’s Cliff House took a series of dramatic turns this week as the owners engaged in a political and legal duel with the federal government.

As we reported last Thursday, the historic Cliff House restaurant — a privately owned profitable business which sits on land controlled by the National Park Service — was suddenly ordered to close by the Obama administration on October 3.

Then on Monday, October 7, with little fanfare, Cliff House’s owners Dan and Mary Hountalas decided to defy the government’s closure order and instead re-open for business, to the delight of the hundreds of tourists and locals who dine there every day. When word leaked out that the Cliff House had re-opened, the local National Park Service office consulted with Washington, D.C., and then issued a second (and apparently firmer) order to the owners to re-close the restaurant; the owners were then forced to unwillingly comply for a second time last night at midnight:

The famed Cliff House restaurant has been forced to shut its doors for the remainder of the federal government shutdown, after it defied orders by reopening earlier this week.

Diners who learned of the new closure were none too happy, to say the least:

“That’s outrageous! Are you serious?” Hubbard said as she walked out of the restaurant, the sunset glazing the windows behind her. “It is very stupid! Why are people deprived of a job? Why do the rest of us have to stop enjoying the parks?”

Hubbard wasn’t alone in her outrage at missing out on the $10 endive salad or the $27 mahi mahi.

“You’re kidding me,” said Ken Evans, who was visiting from Visalia and stopped by the Cliff House to take in the view. “You know what, I would stay open if I were them. You can’t close these things down.”

The Hountalas family, who have owned and operated the Cliff House for 40 years, issued a press release over the weekend explaining in no uncertain terms that they were being forced to close against their wishes and had decided to defy the closure order as a matter of principle — and finances:

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

Our partners at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area have fought hard for the Cliff House to be allowed to stay open.

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

The Cliff House operates 365 days a year and employs 170 staff most of whom are furloughed. Even though the Cliff House is not open for business there are daily operating costs, which include maintenance of the iconic Cliff House building.

Having been shut down for four days the Cliff House has already assumed considerable financial loss. Outreach has been done to donate unused food to local charities that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The news reports leave one key question unanswered: What additional threat accompanied the second closure order which forced the owners into compliance?

If they were brave enough to deny the first order, why did they cave in the second time?

Since the Cliff House is a “concessionaire” of the National Park Service — a privately owned business granted a concession to operate on federal land — it is quite likely (although still unproven at this point) that they were threatened with the loss of their concession if they did not comply with the Obama administration’s second order.

Note also that the Hountalas’ press release praises the local National Park Service employees who “have fought hard for the Cliff House to be allowed to stay open,” but that according to an article published yesterday,

A rep for the Park Service told Inside Scoop that they’re waiting for further information from their bosses in D.C. before making a decision.

The local office apparently got their marching orders from Washington late last night, and issued an immediate second threat.

Why so quick? The Obama administration seems to be trying to quell a potential nascent mutiny among concessionaires at National Parks:

The case could also encourage other National Park concessionaires to violate the rule and reopen their doors, especially if the conflict continues to go unresolved.

Will National Park Service concessionaires organize a coordinated wave of civil disobedience?

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Obama's pathological politics on the shutdown is utter vindictive sickness. The federal government is shutdown due to a lack of funding. Unmanned, no cost "public lands" are closed by incurring extraordinary costs of employees that should not be working erecting blockades and acting like goons to innocent citizens. Obama is incurring unprecedented expenses to inflict pain on American citizens trying to enjoy "public" land. Sing with me "This land is your land..."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As was heard from many defendants during a famous trial back in the 40's in Europe, "I was just following orders."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There should be black letter law on this, not the whims of people. What does the contract say?

And thank you for your excellent work. When I see your by line, I know I'm going to learn something new.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (45)
All Comments   (45)
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That's our Dear Leader's mantra, he who is supposed to be president of all the people but isn't: maximum pain to the innocent so they will punish Republicans in 2014. That's the Chicago Way.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wonder if anyone has access to the terms and conditions of the "concession" contract, and if so, what specific language in there would allow NPS to arbitrarily and unilaterally close a given concession. I'd bet there is no such language in any of those contracts. Thus, the closing is an illegal and unconstitutional taking without due process of law. WHERE is the Sheriff of San Francisco County? HE is the highest law enforcement official in that whole county. HE has the authority to run NPS armed goons off. WHERE IS HE?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"WHERE is the Sheriff of San Francisco County? HE is the highest law enforcement official in that whole county."

He has no jurisdiction over federal land. He can't countermand the NPS orders.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Coordinated civil disobedience? Now there's an idea!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The National Parks Services are now officially Nazi's to me. They're not just following orders. They are participating in the meanest most vindictive act I've ever seen in my life and I can't believe it's happening in my country.

Are we officially dead as a country now?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
it will be interesting to see if the SF Chronicle blames the Republicans...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Can't wait to hear that all this vindictiveness is Bush's fault.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
San Francisco voted for Obama....let them reap what they sow... )'(
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The thing is the San Francisco Bay area voted in and re-voted in Obama in huge numbers. I bet the staff and owners still have Obama/Biden stickers on their cars. I'm surprised they haven't blamed the Republicans for the closure (or better yet G.W. Bush).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life, and I only just had dinner at the Cliff House back in April. It was marvelous; the place had been restored over the past dozen years, the food was also delicious and reasonably priced. Above all, the staff was incredibly warm and gracious, and welcoming to the out-of-town relatives I was entertaining, especially the children (other than molesters, most San Franciscans are notorious for hating children).

When I read of this, I felt bad; but part of me feels, "Oh well, no doubt you folks voted for him." This is the same way I felt when Obama and Secty. of the Interior Salazar recently shut down and destroyed the Marin Oyster Company, also a 40-year-plus business and also in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. "Oh well, you folks voted for him."

I don't encourage visiting San Francisco (after all, why feed the beast?), but if you are in town, go to the Cliff House and enjoy yourselves; also, the bar is fantastic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Obama administration is sadistic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
sadistic is far too kind to describe these people that were spawned in the darkest deepest pits of hell.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These fed thug gestapo tactics speak EXACTLY to how the bureaucratic functionaries now armed with the most threatening military gear and the force of an outlaw federal judiciary will be handling health care for any one who dares question their authority.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, they have power over us and show that they will use it in our face. They are showing us their true face.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And still nobody pushes back.

We are a dead country.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama's pathological politics on the shutdown is utter vindictive sickness. The federal government is shutdown due to a lack of funding. Unmanned, no cost "public lands" are closed by incurring extraordinary costs of employees that should not be working erecting blockades and acting like goons to innocent citizens. Obama is incurring unprecedented expenses to inflict pain on American citizens trying to enjoy "public" land. Sing with me "This land is your land..."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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