Rockbridge Regional Tourism approved a recovery plan to boost its marketing after The Red Hen restaurant controversy concerning Press Secretary Sarah Sanders brought a slew of negative national media coverage this summer, the Roanoke Times reported.
“The regional tourism board, with members from Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County, met with the Lexington City Council on Thursday for an update on tourism initiatives and numbers.
“The board had initially approved the recovery plan soon after news of The Red Hen controversy was spreading across the country. At the end of June, the restaurant’s owner declined to serve presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she visited the restaurant.”
Sanders tweeted the day after the incident that she had been asked to leave because she works for President Donald Trump:
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
Soon after, Lexington was flooded with protesters who stood outside the restaurant, chanted and held signs. Others posted both positive and negative reviews of the restaurant online.
Director of Marketing Patty Williams said the area is still feeling effects from the controversy — the tourism office received a letter Thursday from a family in Georgia who said they would never come back to the area because of what happened. And during the immediate aftermath of the incident, the tourism office received thousands of phone calls and emails.
“For a town our size, it was a significant impact,” Williams said.
It looks like refusing to serve someone based on a difference of political opinion can come back to bite you.