Restaurant faces backlash for bearing same name as place that refused Sarah Sanders

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (WFSB) -- A restaurant in Old Saybrook is facing backlash for actions of another restaurant of the same name.

Old Saybrook’s Red Hen restaurant is feeling the heat after the Red Hen in Lexington, VA refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders earlier this week.

Owner of the Red Hen in Old Saybrook, Shelley DeProto, told Channel 3 on Sunday that she and her employees have been getting non-stop phone messages and social media posts full of hatred and anger only because of its name, even though DeProto’s restaurant has no connection to the restaurant in Virginia.

DeProto said she prefers to spend her time in the kitchen cooking for her patrons, but she said she has spent the past two days fielding more than just orders.

“I came to work and there were messages,” said DeProto. “There were over 50 messages by the time I walked in.”

DeProto played some of the messages that were left on her voicemail inbox.

“I wouldn’t eat at that restaurant if it was free,” said one voicemail.

DeProto said hundreds of people called, messaged, and made fake reservations her Old Saybrook restaurant.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, “Last night, I was told by the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia to leave because I work for POTUS and I politely left.”

Red Hen manager Marcy Vitagliano said she is also fielding a lot of the calls, calling them mean, unnecessary, and brutal.

“This is just a tiny little place that is just good. It’s just good. Our food is amazing. The service is great,” Vitagliano said. “It’s a single mom just trying to support her family and I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than that.”

DeProto said she is not sure what effect this will have on her business, but said she and her employees will continue to do what they do best, despite the misdirected anger.

DeProto said she contacted several online sites about removing the false bad reviews, and has had some success.

She said that she respects the Virginia restaurant’s right to refuse service, but emphasized she does not agree with the decision, stating that in the hospitality business, no one gets refused.