ALexington, Virginia restaurant, Red Hen, asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave on Friday night, according to Sanders. Sanders took to Twitter to say the owner of the Red Hen, Stephanie Wilkinson, asked her to leave the establishment because Sanders works for President Trump.
The incident has elicited reactions from both sides of the aisle, both condemning and applauding the move.
Here’s what you need to know about the Red Hen restaurant incident.
1. Sanders was Asked to Leave Quickly, Before She & Her Family Were Served
Before Sanders took to Twitter, a Facebook post made by her waiter, Jaike Foley-Schultz, was picked up and shared on Twitter by Brennan Gilmore, the executive director of Clean Virginia.
“I just served Sarah Huckabee Sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner asked her to leave and she complied. Her family left on their own accord, we didn’t actually refuse service or ‘kick her out’,” Foley-Schultz wrote.
Wilkinson told the Washington Post that one of Red Hen’s chefs called to let her know that Sanders was in the restaurant. According to Wilkinson, Sanders’ presence made her employees uncomfortable. The party had already been served their drinks and cheese plates and were waiting on their entrées when Wilkinson arrived and asked to speak to Sanders privately. Before asking her to leave, Wilkinson told Sanders that “the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.” Sanders quickly agreed to her request.
Wilkinson made it clear that only Sanders, not her whole party, was asked to leave, though they left with Sanders. Sanders’ party offered to pay for their drinks and cheese plates before leaving, but Wilkinson declined.
As for why Wilkinson asked Sanders to leave, she said: “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.”
2. People are Leaving Angry Comments on Red Hen’s Yelp & Facebook Pages
When the story broke, those critical to the decision began flooding Red Hen’s Yelp and Facebook pages.
On Red Hen’s Facebook page:
“They refused service to Sarah Sanders. Will I have to take a political test to eat there. Not wasting my time on them. Truly disgusting and un-American. Pathetic.”
“Disrespectful, prejudice ownership have lost many potential customers and now former customers. May this be a lesson for other restaurant owners to serve all people and make it about the food and quality of it, all while leaving politics out of it.”
“I would never eat there. The owner will ask you to leave if you don’t think the same as him politically. Boycott this restaurant!”
“Shame on you for kicking out Sarah Sanders and her family last night. May your misinformed prejudice change before your business most certainly fails.”
Red Hen currently has a 2.2/5 star rating on Facebook and a whopping 7,200 one-star reviews, likely ballooning due to the flood of people reacting to the Sanders incident.
On Yelp, a similar trend is occurring:
“Will never go to this restaurant due to the owners treatment of its customers.”
“Loved the concept but not the food or the service. Staff is very rude and disorganized. I didn’t feel welcome, it’s like they don’t want anyone there. Restrooms were not clean and had a foul odor. Now you hear they’re owned and operated by racists. Great. Now I understand why they treated my family so horribly.”
Red Hen’s Yelp review score sits at 2.5/5, with a sizable number of the one-star reviews written within the last few hours.
Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, Sanders’ father, responded to his daughter’s tweet expressing his dismay.
Political communications strategist Emily Miller linked to the restaurant’s Yelp page in her dismissal of Red Hen’s decision.
Ben Cline, a Republican politician in his eighth term in the Virginia House of Delegates and Lexington native, apologized to Sanders on Twitter.
3. Others Have Praised Red Hen for Asking Sanders to Leave
While the restaurant’s Yelp and Facebook pages have received droves of negative reviews and comments, the condemnation isn’t universal.
Breakfast Media White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg took issue with Sanders even publicizing the incident.
4. Red Hen, a “Farm to Table Fine Dining” Restaurant was Founded in 2008
Red Hen is an independently-owned restaurant based in Lexington, featuring foods grown and raised in the surrounding Shenandoah Valley. The restaurant is dedicated to local food. It receives its “ribeye steak from cattle raised by the Potter family, who have been farming in nearby Collierstown for seven generations.” The beet risotto is made with vegetables from a farm founded by Mexican immigrants, Rancho Calixto.
All of Red Hen’s eight produce and meat partners are located in Virginia.
According to Red Hen, the focus on “local food means each dish preserves the intricate flavors of the land. It’s also good for the environment and our local economy.”
Red Hen earned the Founder’s Award in 2008, presented by the Lexington Historic Foundation, for its design, which features “late-19th-century red brick” and a “gingerbread-trimmed building.”
Red Hen specializes in dinner and is only open from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Although they share a name, Red Hen has no affiliation with the Washington D.C. restaurant. Red Hen D.C. made that known on Twitter after it began receiving comments about the incident.
Red Hen Lexington’s own Twitter account has remained dormant since 2014.
5. Red Hen’s Most Recent Health Inspection had no Violations, but the Restaurant has had Multiple Health Code Violations in Recent Years
According to Virginia Department of Health’s Inspection database, Red Hen has had multiple health code violations since opening: two critical violations in 2014 and one priority violation in 2017.
The 2014 critical violations, dated April 8, dealt with storage of raw beef and dating issues with packaging. Red Hen was sited for storing raw beef above ready-to-eat food in one refrigerator unit, and storing thawing meat above cookie bars in another refrigerator. Red Hen was also cited for not properly labeling ready-to-eat grits in the refrigerator. Both violations were corrected at the time.
The 2017 priority violation, dated January 24, cited Red Hen for having pickles and jams in hermetically sealed containers that weren’t from “an approved food processing plant.” Red Hen claimed the jars were decorative, and that the jams and pickles weren’t a menu item served to customers.
Red Hen has also had two health inspections with no violations, including its most recent check in February of this year.