Owner of The Red Hen restaurant explains that she threw out Sarah Sanders after having her staff vote on it
While there were many people who condemned the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, for being a bigot and a fascist, she also had a lot of supporters for the decision she and her staff made
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was thrown out of The Red Hen restaurant on June 22 night and the owner has finally revealed why she refused to let the woman and her family in for dinner. Sanders was asked to leave the premises of the Lexington, Virginia restaurant after she and seven of her family members went there for dinner. Stephanie Wilkinson, the restaurant owner, said that she took a vote from her staff before she asked the press secretary to leave. Wilkinson agreed with her staff when they voted that Sanders and her family be kicked out.
Wilkinson told the Washington Post: "Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave. They said 'yes'. I'm not a huge fan of confrontation. 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."
The owner also said that her head chef had called her at around 8 in the night on Friday and had told her that Sanders and her family had arrived at the restaurant. After she went to the restaurant, she told the publication that she saw Sanders and the rest of her family dining on their cheese platter and immediately called a staff meeting while the main course was being prepared for the Press Secretary's family at the farm-to-table restaurant. Wilkinson asked her staff how they felt about having Sanders there. Some of the staff members identify as gay while others in the workforce choose to be nonpolitical while in their workspace.
Wilkinson also said that she kept in mind the agenda by the Trump administration to ban transgender people from enlisting in the military and the zero-tolerance policy he was slammed for recently for separating immigrant families from the children at the border. She said that Lexington, the small town in Virginia, voted against Trump in the 2016 elections.
The owner went to Sanders' table after the staff voted and told the Press Secretary: "I'm the owner. I'd like you to come out to the patio with me for a word. I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion. I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation. I said, 'I’d like to ask you to leave'." Sanders then replied: "That's fine. I'll go."
Wilkinson had said that Sanders' family were welcome to stay in the restaurant if they so wished to but they all left with Sanders. She said: "They offered to pay. I said, 'No. It’s on the house'." The press secretary then took to Twitter on June 23 morning to talk about her experience saying:
The Red Hen's Yelp page has been bombarded with either one-star reviews or five-star reviews from people who are either fans of Trump or not. The restaurant's score has now come down to 2.5 stars. Unfortunately for one restaurant in Washington D.C. which shares the same name, they have been unwittingly caught in the political scandal and is currently trying to make sure everyone knows the difference. Their page on social media has now been put on an Active Cleanup Alert that came with a banner disclaimer saying that the page is being monitored for any content that relates to media reports.
One staff member from the restaurant, Jaike Foley-Schultz, posted the encounter on Facebook when he went to Sanders and told her that he could only serve her for two more minutes. The post read: "I just served Sarah Huckabee Sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members."
The post went viral after the director of Clean Virginia, a nonprofit organization, Brennan Gilmore, shared the post on Twitter along with the picture of a handwritten note that was allegedly given to Sanders from the restaurant which read: "86 - Sara Huckabee Sanders". The number 86 is normally used in the restaurant industry as a slang to say "throw out".
Sanders' father, former governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 Mike Huckabee, slammed the restaurant and its owner after his daughter was thrown out. He tweeted: "Bigotry. On the menu at The Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the 'Hate Plate'. And appetizers are 'small plates for small minds.''
Many people, however, supported the restaurant and its decision including model Christine "Chrissy" Teigen who replied to Sanders' initial tweet: "Didn’t you morons get your panties in a wad defending the baker that didn’t want to make cakes for gay couples?" Lawrence O'Donnell, an MSNBC host, tweeted: "You do NOT treat reporters “respectfully.” You lie to them and personally insult some of them in full public view."
June 23 was an eventful day for the restaurant's social media page as it was being flooded with messages, both good and bad, from various alleged former diners.
Douglas S from Chico, California, wrote: "Based on their hate and prejudices I would not patronize this place. Americans have worked hard for peace and social justice but up with a place that is owned by an intolerant fascist." Steven C., from Marysville, Washington, wrote: "I would never eat here again. The owner is a bigot. The way I've seen him treat customers is despicable. Don't waste your money here!"
While there were many bad reviews, majority of them were definitely in support of the restaurant. Frederick H. from Jackson wrote: "Thank you for standing up for all of us. Will definitely visit next month when I'm in the area." Will S. wrote from Las Vegas: "Highly recommend! If you want a place that has amazing food and has the right moral compass, I would go to the Red Hen!"