Owner of Restaurant That Banned Sarah Huckabee Sanders Speaks Out

The restaurant owner who asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her establishment on Friday night has spoken out about the backlash she's dealt with.

Stephanie Wilkinson asked White House Press Secretary Sanders to leave her restaurant, The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, over what she called a "moral conviction." On Saturday afternoon, she opened up in an interview with the Washington Post about how she decided to stand up for her beliefs and how she is dealing with harassment from the president's supporters.

According to Wilkinson, she was at home when Sanders stepped into her restaurant. The chef called her to let her know about their unexpected high profile guest.

"He said the staff is a little concerned. What should we do?" Wilkinson said. "I said I'd be down to see if it's true."

Wilkinson noted that Lexington, Virginia had voted against President Trump, and had stood against many of his inflammatory policies. She also said that she did her best to keep politics out of the workplace she runs.

"I'm not a huge fan of confrontation," Wilkinson said. "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."

Wilkinson said that as far as she is concerned, Sanders knowingly serves an "inhumane and unethical" administration — a feeling many shared in recent weeks because of the Justice Department's new immigration policy.

Wilkinson confirmed that many of her employees are gay or otherwise in the LGBTQ community, and that they were specifically upset by Sanders' words on several occasions. Her defense of President Trump's transgender ban in the military was particularly upsetting.

"'Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,'" Wilkinson said she told her staff. "They said 'yes.'"

Wilkinson said she was nervous as she approached Sanders. She asked to speak with her privately in the hopes of avoiding embarassment in the cramped restaurant.

"I said, 'I'm the owner,'" she reportedly said, "'I'd like you to come out to the patio with me for a word.'"

"I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion," Wilkinson said of their conversation. "I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation. I said, 'I'd like to ask you to leave.'"

Wilkinson told reporters that Sanders was a very specific case, and she would not ask just any customer she disagreed with to leave. She said that because Sanders was a public official, she was accountable for her words and actions. She also pointed out that her staff had seated Sanders' party and served them cheese boards and drinks before she arrived, however grudgingly.

"They offered to pay," Wilkinson remembered. "I said, 'No. It's on the house.'"

Wilkinson said she was not fully prepared for the onslaught of emphatically celebratory and hateful feedback her restaurant would get online after the incident. She said that the whole ordeal had been conducted with politeness in the moment, but when one of her waiters posted about the incident on Facebook, it went viral. After that, the Red Hen was flooded with disingenuous Yelp reviews.

"Thank you for refusing to serve a person who lies to the American people for a living," read one five-star review.

"They made some snide remark about a 'spit souffle' for the Florida nazi,'" read a one star review.

For all of the hassle, Wilkinson said she would do the same thing if faced with the decision again.

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"I would have done the same thing again," she said "We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one."

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong