LEXINGTON, Va. — After a nearly two-week hiatus, the Lexington, Virginia, restaurant known for turning away White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reopened its doors Thursday night.
Red Hen was thrust into the national spotlight on June 23, when Sanders tweeted that the restaurant’s owner asked her to leave because she works for President Donald Trump.
The establishment closed its doors several days later, but Thursday night Red Hen reopened for business and only accepted customers with reservations. A sign on the restaurant’s door said it was fully booked for the evening, according to WDBJ.
A two-sided debate
Outside the restaurant, several protesters held signs that said, “Hey Red Hen Go Cluck Yourself” and “No Civility, No Peas.”
“We’re here today because actions have consequences,” Paul Brockman, a spokesman for the Patriot Picket, a group that advocates for Second Amendment rights, told WDBJ.
“We think the place for political statements is at the ballot box, not at the dinner table,” he said.
Others were there to support the restaurant.
“I think it was very brave what the owner did, probably a very hard decision,” Don Mandelkorn told WDBJ.
One sign read: “Red Hen 2018 = 1960 Woolworth Lunch Counter.” New Jersey resident Terry Layman told WDBJ he doesn’t think the events are comparable — one centered around political ideology and the other around civil rights.
Part of a larger conversation
Since Sanders’ tweet, Red Hen has become emblematic of a national debate over civility and decency in a time of political differences. President Trump added to the incident’s profile when he berated the restaurant in a tweet.
“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!” Trump said.
Following Trump’s tweet and an ensuing wave of protests, Stephanie Wilkinson, who co-owns Red Hen, resigned as the executive director of a local business group.
Wilkinson told The Washington Post that she asked Sanders to leave at her staff’s request and “would have done the same thing again.”
Sanders isn’t the only political figure to be confronted in public recently. Protesters accosted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a Mexican restaurant in Washington just over two weeks ago. And this week, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was confronted by a woman at a Washington restaurant who told him to “resign before your scandals push you out.”
According to WDBJ, it is currently unclear when Red Hen will be accepting walk-in customers. The restaurant did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.