Government Shutdown 2013: Shenandoah National Park shut down, nearby businesses lose revenue
WARREN COUNTY, Va. (WJLA) - It was supposed to be the busiest weekend of the year for the Daily Grind coffee shop in Front Royal, Virginia. The coffee shop’s financial success is dependent on tourists who visit the Shenandoah National Park in the fall.
But in the two weeks that the park and Skyline Drive have been shuttered, business has dropped off exactly 39-percent this long holiday weekend alone.
"It is the worst time," says owner Herb Melrath. "Timing couldn't be any worse for this to happen... October is our busiest time of the year."
A quarter of the Park’s annual visits take place this season, and without the ability to access it, tourists are canceling reservations at places like Tom Conkey’s Bed and Breakfast. Business there is down 10 to 15 percent.
"It's the restaurants, it's the B&B's, it's the lodging facilities," explains Conkey. "It ripples all through the community. We're all suffering, we're all getting hammered by this thing."
A few visitors are still showing up to take pictures in front of the signs that say “Closed,” but then they head out.
Local leaders feel their hands are ties as they watch revenue slip away.
"It's a trickle-down effect," says Front Royal mayor, Tim Darr. "It affects our economy. It affects every business in town. Every one of these business owners have to pay their bills as well. They still have to pay their taxes!"
The window for the tourism season here is very small – only about two to three weeks. So even if an agreement is reached that ends the government shutdown, many here say it’s too late. The damage will already be done.