Donald Trump has apparently not heard of Yelp: This morning, amid a political storm surrounding a restaurant that ushered press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders out last Friday night before she’d finished her meal, the president tweeted a review: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
There is no indication that Trump has ever been to the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia.
The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
Trump sent this tweet amid a morning tweetstorm which touched on issues including security, a so-called “witch hunt,” fake news, immigration, and renewed calls to “build the wall.” Especially in recent weeks, the Trump administration’s handling of immigration from Mexico and Central America has fired up an emotional debate that is particularly relevant to the restaurant industry.
This morning’s tweet from Trump comes after a weekend full of speculation and political mud-slinging related to the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, and how its staff had supposedly refused to serve press secretary Sanders. (The Red Hen is closed today; ownership has not responded to requests for comment.) In fact, the restaurant did serve Sanders and her guests — she was not denied entry. However, part-way through the meal, the owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, conferred with her staff in the back.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told the Washington Post. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.” Some of the Red Hen’s staffers are members of the LGBT community. As the Post noted, Wilkinson and her staff were aware that Sanders had been in favor of Trump’s proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
She asked her team if they were uncomfortable with serving Sanders. “Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson said she told her staff, per the Post. “They said ‘yes.’ ”
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
Sanders and her party of eight were drinking and eating a cheese board they had ordered. Wilkinson requested Sanders accompany her to the patio area of the restaurant. After explaining herself, Wilkinson asked her to leave. Sanders replied, “That’s fine. I’ll go.” The group offered to pay, but Wilkinson said the meal was “on the house.” At the end of the night, the staff wrote on a dry erase board meant for announcing menu items that had run out — using the industry term, “86’d” — that “Sara Huckabee Sanders” had been “86’d.”
Over the weekend, the Red Hen’s social media and Yelp pages were plastered with politicized reviews. At the moment, Sanders’ supporters appear to be dominating the Red Hen’s Yelp page with negative reviews for the restaurant, yielding a 1-and-a-half star rating. “I ... have the right to never eat there, advertise their bigotry, and make sure everyone knows their owner is a backwards thinking intolerant leftist who is afraid of opposing ideas,” wrote Bob G. of Hudson, New Hampshire. The Red Hen’s website appears to have been hacked.
Meanwhile, Red Hen restaurants in Washington, DC, and New Jersey are taking heat on social media even though they had nothing to do with the debacle. Chef David Chang weighed in on Twitter as well, calling on the James Beard Foundation to honor the Lexington, Virginia, Red Hen restaurant with an American Classics award, arguing that its owners’ actions are a reflection of the character of its community.
The @beardfoundation should honor @RedHenLex as American Classic:— Dave Chang (@davidchang) June 25, 2018
“since 1998 the JBFA Committee has recognized our nation’s beloved regional restaurants. Distinguished by their timeless appeal, they serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities” https://t.co/3qJ9ZcsoNu