Typically, a hot restaurant will earn a couple thousand reviews on Yelp. As of mid-morning Monday, The Red Hen in Lexington, VA has 15,000.
Conservative political activists, including Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, are calling on supporters to flood the restaurant’s Yelp page with negative reviews after it refused service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this weekend.
“This is the market at work,” wrote Kirk in a tweet. “Don’t force someone to serve another person, but if you refuse, you must accept the consequences.”
Kirk wasn’t the only one taking to social media to bash the small business. Donald Trump, on Monday morning, took aim at the restaurant, saying (among other things) that it needed a paint job. (Liberal activists quickly announced they planned a fundraiser to cover those costs. At least one other fundraiser for the restaurant is already trending on GoFundMe.)
Yelp, in a statement on the Red Hen page, says it is actively working to remove reviews, both positive and negative, that appear to be motivated by news coverage, rather than actual experience with the restaurant.
It’s a losing battle so far. Over 11,500 reviews are one star. (Prior to the incident, the restaurant seems to have had a five star average.) The “Ask the Community” section of the Red Hen Yelp page is also filled with political rhetoric.
Perhaps predictably, the fight is also spilling over from focusing on the restaurant to focusing on the people writing the reviews. One person who wrote a review supporting the owners stand subsequently received messages calling her a “subhuman spic” and telling her to kill herself.
The Red Hen, as is its tradition every Monday, is closed today.