Red Hen owner resigns from Main Street Lexington business group over the Sarah Sanders restaurant controversy

Social media exploded with supporters and haters all giving their opinions on the situation and the hashtag #BoycottRedHen is currently the focus of American news.


                            Red Hen owner resigns from Main Street Lexington business group over the Sarah Sanders restaurant controversy
Sarah Sanders (Getty Images)

The co-owner of the Red Hen restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, has resigned from her post with the Main Street Lexington business group in Virginia after the incident where she asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her restaurant. Sanders' family, however, was welcome to stay. News of the press secretary being asked to leave the restaurant made headlines after one of the waiters there, Jaike Foley-Schultz, posted on Facebook on June 22 that Wilkinson refused to serve Sanders and her guests that night. Social media exploded with supporters and haters all giving their opinions on the situation and the hashtag #BoycottRedHen is currently the focus of American news. Foley-Schultz had initially posted: "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…"

A local NBC affiliate, WSLS, reported: "Elizabeth Outland Branner, the president of the organization, accepted Wilkinson’s resignation Tuesday morning." Branner then wrote in an email: "Considering the events of the past weekend, Stephanie felt it best that for the continued success of Main Street Lexington, she should step aside." Later on the waiter also edited the post to clarify: "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'."

According to former Governor Mike Huckabee, Sanders' father, she and her husband had gone home after the embarrassing incident but the other guests with her had gone to a nearby restaurant to eat. The former governor said that Wilkinson and a few other of her supporters allegedly followed the group to the other restaurant and kept yelling insults at them from outside the building.

A previous report by Meaww has stated that 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. 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 asked to leave.

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." However, not everybody was pleased with her choice of action. 

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 also added for good measure 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.

Foley-Schultz's earlier mentioned Facebook post sped to virality after the director of Clean Virginia, a nonprofit organization, Brennan Gilmore, shared it 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".

As a result of the incident, 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 other restaurants who share the same name, they have been unwittingly caught in the political scandal and are currently trying to make sure everyone knows the difference. 

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!"