The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington Virginia reopened this week after the controversial request by co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson for White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave prompted a massive debate over the right to refuse service.
According to the Washington Post, Wilkinson said she’s not a huge fan of confrontation, but she couldn’t stay quiet when she saw Sanders in the restaurant and asked her to leave, citing the Trump administration’s “unethical and inhumane” policies in regard to immigration.
“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 Red Hen closed temporarily in the wake of the backlash from conservatives, but reopened Thursday at 5 p.m., even though conservative protesters stood outside with signs proclaiming: “We shall overcome… Democrats!”
The group involved, according to USA Today, was Patriot Picket. They reportedly are second amendment supporters. By Friday, no sign of protesters remained, and the 26-seat restaurant was reportedly booked to capacity both Thursday and Friday.
Inside the Red Hen, an open kitchen layout gives guests an insight into the process of meal preparation. The menu leans towards “farm to table New American” with heavy Italian and French influence. An emphasis on creamy dairy is present from appetizer to dessert, and the spread of local cheese, fresh produce, and gorgeous presentation make the tiny restaurant a hidden gem in Lexington.
Yelp reviews (prior to a spate of hate comments spurred by the Sanders incident) are overwhelmingly positive, and many supporters shared the information that gift certificates are available on the restaurant’s website.
According to CNN, Donald Trump commented on the restaurant in the wake of the incident, saying via Twitter, “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!”
Wilkinson stands by her decision to refuse service to Sanders, saying she would do the same thing again. The incident took place just days after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen left a Mexican restaurant in Washington after protesters confronted her there; in that case, immigration was also the catalyst for objecting to the presence of a Trump administration employee.