The last time Napa’s Red Hen restaurant was in the news, it involved a neon sign of a cartoon chicken wearing a sombrero.
But then White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday night was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. And suddenly the whole country was talking about “the Red Hen.”
Norm Sawicki, Napa’s Red Hen Bar and Grill owner, is quite aware.
In a case of mistaken identity, some have Napa’s Red Hen restaurant confused with Virginia’s Red Hen restaurant, Sawicki said. And he’s gotten quite an earful about it.
“They are threatening to boycott my Red Hen,” said Sawicki. “They think we are part of a chain, which we’re not.”
Sawicki reported receiving calls at the restaurant saying things like, “You’re nasty people for doing this to Sarah,” he said. Napa’s Red Hen has been pilloried on social media.
The misidentification is “definitely affecting my business,” Sawicki said. Since Friday night, sales at the north Napa bar and grill have dropped about 30 percent, he said.
The false association between the Napa and Lexington Red Hens has spread on websites such as Yelp and Facebook.
“I will not patronize any Red Hen Restaurant or any restaurant who won’t treat any customer who would give them business the respect and service they deserve,” wrote Zeny M. of Contra Costa County on the Red Hen Napa Yelp page.
Also on Yelp: “They will never get my vote. Welcome to communist USA. Refusing service for any reason beyond shoes, shirts is anti-American. GROW UP CHILDREN!” wrote Ken V. of Fremont.
“Wrong place, Ken,” wrote Sawicki in reply. “We are a completely unrelated, local business located in Napa, California.”
One Facebook comment about Napa’s Red Hen received more than 480 comments.
“Remind me NEVER to go to the Red Hen in NAPA!” wrote Lynn B. of Houston, Texas.
“Boycott!!!!! Boooo,” wrote Facebook commenter Terri S.
“You got the WRONG establishment moron! ” wrote Peter O. in response.
Yelp seems to be aware of the Red Hen controversy. On Tuesday morning, a notice at the Napa Red Hen’s Yelp site said “This business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports.”
Callers have been so mad that according to his restaurant manager, “There have been some threats,” Sawicki said.
Sawicki said he reported such threats to Napa Police and said since then, officers have been conducting periodic drive-bys at the restaurant. The Napa Red Hen is located at 4175 Solano Ave.
The idea that Napa Red Hen would need protection “seems outrageous,” admitted Sawicki. For those who are angry at Napa’s Red Hen, “all they have to do is go on Facebook and see that we aren’t associated with any other Red Hen.”
“We’re not any kind of a franchise. We’re a sole proprietorship.” In fact, Sawicki has owned the Napa Red Hen – he called it the original — for more than 35 years.
Amidst the criticism, Sawicki said he’s offered his own invitation to Huckabee Sanders.
“I’d love to have Sarah come to my restaurant and I would treat her and her family” to a meal.
While he likes to keep politics out it, “I am very much in favor of President Trump,” acknowleged Sawicki. “I support him and I like a lot of his policies. Not all, but a lot of them.”
Sawicki said he has refused service to customers before, “but only if they are drunk and disorderly.”
“There’s some politicians I definitely don’t like but I would never” ask a guest to leave for political reasons, he said.
“I think that’s extremely rude. I just can’t imagine doing that.”