The Yorktown branch of the Carrot Tree restaurant will close Dec. 22, but that won’t spell the end of Brunswick stew and carrot cake on the banks of the York River.
Co-owner Glenn Helseth told WYDaily Carrot Tree Kitchens will be operating a new restaurant out of the Watermen’s Museum called Tavern on the York, with the hope that it will be open for business Feb. 1.
“The menu will have an emphasis on colonial seaport heritage,” Helseth said. “We’ll always have Brunswick stew and carrot cake wherever we go.”
The closure of the current location at the 1736 Cole Digges House comes after Helseth and his wife were unable to negotiate a new concessioner’s contract with the National Park Service, which owns the house. The Helseths completed a 10-year concession contract at the end of 2012, and for a time it appeared the restaurant would close as the two sides were unable to work out a new contract. After U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1) contacted NPS in December of that year, NPS extended the extension offer.
That extension is coming to a close, however. Once the Carrot Tree closes, the house will remain vacant until NPS is able to find a new tenant.
“There’s a tremendous sadness amongst our people,” Helseth said. “We’ve had many expressions of sadness we’re closing. Many people thought the issue had been settled last year. The people have expressed their support and their willingness to follow us wherever we may fly our flag.”
Helseth said he and his wife are looking for another location in Yorktown where they can reopen Carrot Tree. The Williamsburg and Jamestown locations of the restaurant are unaffected by the closure.
“We’ve had several offers, and we hope to say in the village,” he said. “It’s too early for us to consider something outside Yorktown. We don’t want to give up on any options.”
Helseth announced the closure of Carrot Tree Yorktown in a post Tuesday to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“When in the course of commercial events it becomes necessary for one concessionaire to dissolve the economic bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of the community requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,” Helseth wrote.
He continued on in the style of the Declaration of Independence, citing numerous grievances with NPS, including the delayed release of a contract prospectus — the document that outlines what NPS expects of whatever entity takes control of the building for the next 10 years — the “egregious” terms of the new contract offer and several other things. To read the full contract, visit the Carrot Tree Yorktown’s Facebook page.
The post was met with more than 20 comments expressing sadness and similar emotions about the pending closure of the restaurant.
In addition to the prolonged contract negotiations late last year and the failed negotiations this year, the Yorktown Carrot Tree had to contend with the federal government shutdown in October. NPS required all concessioners in NPS-owned buildings to close during the shutdown, initially forcing Carrot Tree’s hand. Despite the order, the restaurant eventually opened for business anyway, attracting lines out the door.
Helseth said the closure will force him to eliminate five to seven jobs. Some of the staff will transition to Tavern on the York while others will be absorbed by the other two Carrot Tree restaurants.