WASHINGTON - The owners of a D.C. restaurant are taking heat for something that happened over three hours away from them. Popular D.C. Italian restaurant The Red Hen shares a name—but nothing else—with a restaurant in Virginia where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she and her family were asked to leave while dining on Friday night.
The restaurant where the incident happened is also called The Red Hen, but it is located in Lexington, Virginia near Washington & Lee University. The Red Hen D.C. is located on 1st Street NW in the Bloomingdale neighborhood -- and it has absolutely no affiliation whatsoever with the Virginia restaurant bearing the same name. The restaurants are located about 185 miles apart.
This incident has rankled both sides of the political divide, with those who support the restaurant's decision, claiming this goes back to the Supreme Court's recent decision allowing private businesses the right to determine who they are obligated to serve.
However, people who oppose the decision took to Yelp to leave negative reviews for the restaurant—but some have also been erroneously harassing another restaurant by the same name that has nothing to do with the restaurant where Sanders was asked to leave.
The Red Hen located in D.C. is a Michelin-star-rated restaurant, that attracts locals and tourists from around the world.
Mike Friendman, chef and owner of the Red Hen in D.C., has a different take on the controversy. He says their restaurant’s policy is to serve anyone and everyone who steps through their doors—and they invite Sarah Sanders to dine there anytime.
"We woke up to negative reviews, negative comments, some threats at the restaurant, some death threats, threats of vandalism. It’s a fantastic case of mistaken identity."
Still, those who don’t know the difference between the two restaurants have lashed out at the D.C. establishment, and someone even egged the restaurant overnight on Sunday.
Members of the Bloomingdale community have been supportive, even helping clean up the mess on Monday morning.
But, the D.C. restaurant is now being flooded with so many negative comments and reviews they’ve put up a sign with the hashtag #notthatredhen, hoping it will catch on and help clear things up.
"We have zero affiliation with Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia. Completely different restaurant. No chain, no franchise," said Friedman.
They tried a post on their Facebook page to clarify, but things got even worse, especially when President Trump got involved, calling out the restaurant that asked his spokeswoman to leave.
“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!” the President tweeted.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
Friedman told FOX 5 he’s a bit concerned because the President’s tweet did not clarify the location of the restaurant where the incident took place, and they’re trying to deal with that as well.
Meanwhile, the co-owner of the Lexington Red Hen says she has no regrets about what she did. But Friedman says here, politics is off the menu.
"People from both sides of the aisle come in. We don’t have a choice in that. We have opened our doors to serve the community and that’s where we stand," said Friedman.
"Unfortunately this is the world that we live in. This is social media at its best. It’s a very safe soapbox and for good or for bad this is America."
The owner is working with Yelp to get most of those reviews removed, and in the meantime, is telling his employees to more aware of their surroundings.