Food  |  News & Politics

Read the Messages and Threats Sent to the Wrong Red Hen

The DC restaurant has been mistaken for the Virginia one that kicked out Sarah Sanders

The Red Hen in DC posts #NOTTHATREDHEN sign in its window after being mistaken for the Red Hen in Virginia that kicked out Sarah Sanders. Photo courtesy the Red Hen.

Red Hen communications director Alysa Turner is losing count of the threats, tirades, and misspelled insults. But she guesses the popular DC restaurant has received well over 1,000 emails targeting the other Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which kicked out White House press secretary Sarah Sanders over the weekend. The two restaurants are completely unaffiliated.

Turner has also been getting angry messages on her personal email and cellphone, which had been posted with some old press releases. Even Red Hen’s sister restaurant, All-Purpose, is receiving backlash. “Mostly just phone calls of ‘Hey, we’re going to burn your restaurant down,'” says chef/owner Mike Friedman. That, or the callers repeat, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

After the first death threat, Turner called the police and has been reporting more threats since. For a while on Saturday evening, an officer was stationed outside the restaurant. But later that night, sometime past midnight, someone egged the restaurant. A manager from nearby bar Boundary Stone cleaned it up.

“Can you find it kind of ironic that the Hen got egged?” Friedman says. The restaurant has since decided to post the message #NotThatRedHen on its menu and on a sign in the window. Friedman has been trying to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. “You have to actually remember that we didn’t do anything. We’re in a PR crisis, and we didn’t do anything,” he says.

The Red Hen backlash, though, is just the latest example of what happens when you accidentally stumble into the political crosshairs. If you want to know what it’s like to be sucked into that vortex of online trolls and the social media mob, take a peek at just a small handful of messages that Red Hen—and not even that Red Hen—received:

There was support too:

Turner turned on a automatic reply for Facebook messages. On Twitter, she’s tried to have a bit of humor:

“It’s been an interesting experience to be a part of a political firestorm,” Friedman says. “I didn’t think going into the restaurant industry that would happen, but here we are.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.