A small Virginia town is struggling to remake its reputation after a local restaurant in June refused to serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family.
A regional tourism bureau has decided to use its emergency funds to boost advertising for the area, after the refusal of service at The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, prompted a backlash from Trump supporters, as well as others who believe the restaurant went too far.
The Rockbridge Regional Tourism, which also represents Buena Vista and Rockbridge counties, met with the Lexington City Council on Aug. 30, and the localities decided to increase digital marketing and spread positive messages of the area in the wake of the Red Hen incident, The Roanoke Times reported.
The tourism bureau is funded through the lodging and meals tax and each year sets aside some $160,000 for emergencies. The bureau has agreed to spend an additional $15,000 through September.
“Typically the money is saved. But each locality agreed the region was in desperate need of positive coverage,” the local paper wrote.
In June, the owner of the restaurant in Lexington, about a three-hour drive from Washington, refused to serve Sanders.
“I was told … to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders wrote on Twitter following the incident. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
The bureau was flooded with thousands of calls and emails after the incident, said Director of Marketing Patty Williams. Some people protested in front of the restaurant with signs, while others left bad reviews online. The restaurant even had to close for a few weeks.
Just recently, a family in Georgia said in a letter to the bureau they would never come back because of what happened.
“For a town our size, it was a significant impact,” Williams said.