After a two-week hiatus, the Lexington, Virginia restaurant that ejected Sarah Huckabee Sanders is open once again. The Red Hen ignited a political firestorm after asking the White House Press Secretary to leave mid-meal on June 22, sparking online harassment, wild conspiracy theories, and the doxxing of its owner, and it closed its doors a few days later as the restaurant was swarmed by protesters — until reopening on Thursday night.
According to USA Today, a mixed group of protesters and hopeful customers waited outside for the Red Hen to open at 5 p.m. The former carried signs with messages like “Red Hen 2018 = 1960 Woolworth Lunch Counter,” while the latter were turned away unless they had a reservation. (A sign in the restaurant’s window explained it was fully booked.)
The Red Hen’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, previously told the Washington Post that she decided to ask Sanders to leave partway through her meal because she believed Sanders worked for an “inhumane and unethical” administration. The restaurant quickly became the target of harassment, a fury that was fueled by a tweet from the President himself: Wilkinson’s home address and phone number were circulated online, Twitter users urged immigration officials to investigate the restaurant for allegedly employing undocumented workers, and protesters swarmed outside.
The Red Hen incident is just one of the recent instances where Trump officials have been confronted in restaurants, either by the owners or by other diners: Homeland Security secretary Kristjen Nielsen was confronted by activists while dining at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. on June 19, while Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had his lunch interrupted earlier this week by a woman who urged him to resign. (Pruitt resigned from his post on Thursday following numerous high-profile scandals.)
Restaurants in most areas (one major exception being Washington, D.C.) are well within their legal rights to refuse service based on political affiliation, and many — including Rep. Maxine Waters, who faced subsequent death threats — have encouraged citizens to continue making Trump officials uncomfortable.