Lexington locals, visitors weigh in on Red Hen controversy

Published: Jun. 24, 2018 at 10:37 PM EDT
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A restaurant in Lexington remains the center of heated discussion online and on the streets of Lexington.

This came after President Trump's Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was denied a meal there Friday night.

It was mostly quiet outside The Red Hen Sunday, but all day long people were walking by to take pictures in support of the restaurant, other boo-ing out the windows of their cars. But given Lexington's history and political climate, some locals they're not surprised Lexington is once again in the national spotlight.

"And I think that it was total discrimination and to ask a dignitary, like Sarah Sanders is, to leave and it would be a privilege to serve her, I think is total discrimination," said Ronnie Downer from Covington.

Some agree with Downer and condemn the Red Hen owner and staff.

"I don't support discrimination in any facet," said Larry Heatwole. "If that had been somebody from the Obama administration, I would be just as upset."

Others steadfastly are in support of the restaurant.

"I think it was courageous for her to speak out against injustice," said Demaree Peck, who said she is friends with the owner of the Red Hen.

Still, some find themselves somewhere in the middle of the argument.

"I think that no one should get turned away for anything, it's their right to do what they're gonna do," said Jonathan Vance.

The conversation is similarly polarized online. People have taken to Yelp and Facebook, rating the restaurant and the city as a whole, based on their take of the situation.

Still, some of the locals we spoke with say they weren't surprised Lexington is in the middle of a national conversation once again.

‘I’m not surprised at this at all," Heatwole said. "I’m disappointed very much because Lexington doesn’t need this mud.”

"I regret the polarization that's happening in the community," Peck said. "But I think it's good to have constructive dialogue and conversation."

We've made multiple attempts to reach out to the owner of the Red Hen., She has not yet responded to our calls. A voicemail for the restaurant phone number also does not appear to be working.

Twice on Sunday, Lexington's Fire Department stopped by the restaurant. Peck said she smelled gas coming from the restaurant and called Columbia Gas. She told WDBJ7 her friend, the owner, had received death threats following the incident, so she felt the need to call the fire department out of an abundance of caution. The report of death threats had not yet been confirmed by the owner nor by the police at publication time. Police closed off the block while the fire department inspected. They left within 20 minutes and determined there was no threat of a gas leak.

A GoFundMe in support of the restaurant had also raised $2.500 by Sunday evening, asking people to "spare a few bucks to offset the cost of her courage and to send a message to other businesses that the good people of this nation will support them if they support us."