Ontario eatery targeted online by Sarah Sanders supporters
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, June 25, 2018 10:13AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 25, 2018 2:40PM EDT
An Ontario eatery has been targeted by supporters of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who likely mistook the establishment for the Virginia restaurant the White House press secretary was asked to leave on Friday.
The negative comments on the Facebook page belonging to The Olde Red Hen in Collingwood, Ont., are likely due to the two restaurant’s similar names. Sanders tweeted on Saturday that the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Va. told her to leave because she works for U.S. President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile in Collingwood, Ont., the Olde Red Hen’s Facebook page has been inundated with angry comments and bad reviews.
“Hope you go out of business you liberal trash. Clean up this dump,” commented Thomas Collins, whose Facebook profile indicates that he lives in Maryland, on Sunday.
“I wonder how long before the Red Hen slop house folds and goes bankrupt?,” wrote Albert Holland.
“Shame on you,” wrote Connie Szczepanik. “Bigots and hypocrites!”
The case of mistaken identity did not go unnoticed by a number of users who rushed to advise others that they are directing their comments at an unrelated Canadian business.
Diane Smith, the owner of the Collingwood business, said she was initially baffled by the avalanche of Facebook notifications that started on Friday night. She called her restaurant to make sure everything was OK. The staff was equally confused.
“My phone lit up with notifications,” Smith told CTV News Channel on Monday. “‘Don’t go to this restaurant.’ ‘Their political views aren’t right.’ ‘I won’t eat in a place like that.’ I didn’t know what was happening.”
A quick internet search revealed the root of the problem. She asked several users to remove their erroneous comments from her page.
“They were all Americans. We had to straighten it out,” Smith said. “My restaurant was really attacked about bad service.”
People from both sides of the border expressed support for The Olde Red Hen, and apologized for the abuse from others.
“Many of your comments are posted on the Wrong Red Hen! If your (sic) ever in Collingwood, Ontario, stop in, you wouldn’t be disappointed!,” wrote Sue Clements, whose Facebook profile says she lives in Collingwood. “I work at The Old Red Hen in Collingwood, This restaurant has been around for 80 years, Great food and service! Busiest place in Collingwood.”
“I apologize on behalf of my country. I hope Canadians realize this is a minority,” wrote Steve Guillot from Plano, Tex.
Smith hopes the online chatter about her restaurant will turn to the fresh ingredients and “old school diner” charm. She’s grateful to her real patrons that came to her defence online.
“I’m very blessed that the customers and our loyal fan base, they were very supportive of us,” she said. “My husband has been in the business for 50 years. He takes pride in quality and customer service.”
Trump added to the online backlash against the Lexington, Va., Red Hen restaurant on Monday, tweeting, “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!”
Business and travel review websites Yelp and TripAdvisor are combating misleading reviews of the Red Hen.
TripAdvisor has suspended new reviews, citing “a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience.”
Yelp said it started a “cleanup process” on Saturday, noting that some posts may be removed. The Red Hen has nearly 15,000 reviews on the website. The population of Lexington, Va. is 7,042, according to 2010 census figures.
Another Red Hen restaurant impacted
Collingwood isn’t the only city to have the reputation of one of its restaurants mistakenly fouled online.
A New Jersey establishment, also called the Red Hen, reportedly received at least 600 phone calls threatening the restaurant and its staff.