Restaurants across the country sharing the same name are being targeted with death threats, eggings, and fake reservations after the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, refused service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday night.
“This place is unamerican for kicking Sarah Sander out, libtards snowflakes cannot accept a true patriotic American! MAGA!” wrote one Facebook user on a Red Hen Facebook page, giving the place a one-star review.
The trouble is, that Facebook page was for a bar and restaurant in Limerick, Ireland, which has absolutely no connection to the restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. The restaurant responded in a comment: “Wrong bar, Timothy. You reviewed bar in Limerick Ireland ! We love the yanks.”
Restaurants with similar names in places around the world are now being targeted by Trump supporters. One Red Hen in California even had to shut down their Facebook page because they were getting so many comments and messages. Another in D.C. got death threats.
VICE News was able to reach representatives at seven restaurants called “Red Hen” on Monday, all of whom said they'd received calls or had been criticized on social media for the crime of having the same name.
Some of the outrage seemed to be prompted by President Donald Trump, who singled out the restaurant on Twitter on Monday morning, writing that it should be more worried about how filthy it looks than refusing service to “a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
The Red Hen in Washington, D.C., appears to have borne a large proportion of the misguided vitriol. Located just blocks away from the Capitol building, they say they’ve gotten tons of calls threatening violence.
“We’ve certainly received death threats and we’ve certainly been vandalized,” chef and owner Mike Friedman told VICE News.
The restaurant was also egged on Sunday night, “which I think is ironic cause it’s like the hen got egged,” Friedman added, making light of the harassment. He says they’re staying open, in spite of it.
“The D.C. community has been very supportive,” he said. “We’ve had patrons come in and give us a high five and say, ‘This will pass.’”
Red Hen Baking, in Middlesex, Vermont, has been getting tons of calls from angry Trump supporters. “Someone said, this is just like Starbucks kicking those black people out,” Randy George, who co-owns Red Hen Baking with his wife, told VICE News. “One person said this is like a communist society.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls,” Sarah Carpenter, an assistant manager at the Red Hen Bar and Grill in Napa, California told VICE News. “We actually had to shut down our Facebook page because we were getting so many emails.”
(A Facebook spokesperson told VICE News that Red Hens targeted by MAGA supporters could disable ratings and reviews and turn them back on at a later time.)
On the Red Hen in D.C.’s Yelp page, both Trump supporters and critics sparred in their reviews. “If people can refuse to bake a cake because it violates their deeply held beliefs, you can certainly refuse to serve those who violate yours. Great job! Keep it up,” one user wrote. “The ownership of this restaurant is intolerant and discriminatory. I hope that enough people boycott this place so that the owners learn a lesson," wrote another.
Yelp said in an email to VICE News that the reviews on their site aren’t about what’s going on in the news. “Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news,” a Yelp spokesperson said, adding that those reviews complaining about a restaurant’s refusal to serve Huckabee Sanders would ultimately be taken down. The company says it’s flagging the reviews as they see them.
Carpenter, of the Napa Red Hen, added that people had been making fake reservations on OpenTable and demanding an apology, which, of course, Carpenter’s restaurant isn’t in a position to give. "We’re continuing to monitor and work with the restaurant to guard against any further issues," OpenTable said in a statement.
But the harassment isn’t limited to digital envoys. “Usually they call and ask if you’re the dumbass restaurant that did that,” Carpenter said. “When we tell them we’re not affiliated with that they just hang up on us.”
“My favorite one is being called a Nazi restaurant,” a representative for the Little Red Hen Bakery & Ice Cream in Bethel, Maine told VICE News via Facebook message.
A book publisher, called Red Hen Press, which isn’t a restaurant at all, told VICE News via email that they received “angry voicemails, a few emails, posts, and lots of tweets from customers threatening to stop eating at our restaurant.” They said that, like a number of the other establishments that got undeserved flack, that they’d also received an outpouring of encouragement from their supporters.
Several of the Red Hens said that some Trump supporters continued to badger them even after they explained they were not connected to the restaurant in controversy. “Some of [the callers] also said, well, you should go give a message to that Red Hen,” George of Red Hen Baking in Vermont said.
Asked whether he’d serve a member of the Trump administration, George said that he’d just been discussing that with his coworkers in his bakery.
“I think that what the big problem that’s going on in this country is that we can’t talk to each other,” he told VICE News. “I’m really upset with a lot of the things that the Trump administration is doing. But I think that we need to have discourse, and I’m not a believer in censorship. Everyone’s welcome here, and we’ve always made that clear. I would not refuse someone service based on their political or religious beliefs.”
“I’d love to have a conversation with any of these people,” he added. “We’d have a lot of important issues to be discussing right now, and if we have differences of opinion, we should be discussing them.”
All of the establishments VICE News spoke to said that they serve everybody, regardless of their political beliefs.
Cover image: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducts a White House daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House June 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)