The little Red Hen restaurant in rural Virginia found itself squarely in the middle of a big Beltway brouhaha after Sarah Huckabee Sanders was turned away on Friday night, and now the owner gives the Washington Post the backstory. Stephanie Wilkinson was home when her chef called around 8pm to say that Sanders had walked in with a group, and wondered what to do. Wilkinson drove to the restaurant, confirmed that it was indeed Sanders, and asked her staff, "Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave." Wilkinson notes that some of her employees are gay. "They said 'yes.'" Wilkinson says she asked Sanders to step outside, and though "I was babbling a little ... I explained that the restaurant has certain standards ... such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation." Asked to leave, Sanders said, "That's fine. I'll go."
Sanders' group elected to clear out with her, and offered to pay for their entrees, which were being prepared; Wilkinson opted not to charge the group. Usually, politics aren't on the menu at the Red Hen, Wilkinson says. "I’m not a huge fan of confrontation. 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." That business was mired firmly in controversy Saturday, with trolls of both flavors clogging the Red Hen's Yelp page (which now has two stars), its reservation line, and even shouting from the sidewalk in Lexington. The restaurant opted not to open Saturday night, writing in an email that "We would like to avoid exposing our patrons to any potential unpleasantness from outside entities." (Read more Sarah Huckabee Sanders stories.)