The town of Lexington, Virginia, is attempting to recover its image after the town’s Red Hen restaurant denied service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
The regional tourism board is using emergency funds to pay for a digital marketing campaign aimed at giving the area positive coverage after the restaurant refused Sarah Sanders service in June, the Roanoke Times reported Sunday.
The Rockbridge Regional Tourism Office — which serves Lexington, Rockbridge County, and Buena Vista — decided to spend $5,000 per month on this campaign after receiving thousands of emails and calls complaining about the incident.
The office said it received a letter on Thursday from a Georgia family who vowed never to return to the area because of how Sanders was treated.
“For a town our size, it was a significant impact,” Patty Williams, the tourism board’s director of marketing, said of the incident.
The White House press secretary tweeted in June that the owner of the Red Hen restaurant asked her to leave because she worked for President Trump.
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. 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
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
Sanders left the restaurant without incident, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said on the Laura Ingraham Show that the owner continued to harass her friends as they dined elsewhere.
Trump trashed the rural Virginia restaurant two days later, calling it a “filthy” establishment, and dozens of protesters flooded the restaurant over the next few days, bringing harsh words for the Red Hen and its owner. The backlash caused the restaurant to shut its doors temporarily.
Once the restaurant re-opened two weeks later, the protests continued.
Red Hen’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, resigned from the Main Street Lexington Business Group amidst the fallout from her clash with the White House press secretary.