Five restaurants that got caught up in presidential politics

A television shows the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a restaurant in San Diego Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Presidential Yelp: Restaurant owners take heat when the campaign shows up

Storified by Digital First Media · Fri, Oct 05 2012 04:38:07

Presidential elections have become so polarizing that even restaurants can get caught up in the fight. When the Obama and Romney campaigns show up, restaurant owners can get in trouble for serving them – or not serving them. Here are five recent examples.

You can get in trouble for serving the candidate.

Today’s Zaman — A Bear Hug for Obama campaigntzamanwebtv
Last month, President Barack Obama stopped by the Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Ft. Pierce, Fla. Owner Scott Van Duzer served him with a bear hug, lifting Obama off his feet.
Van Duzer described himself as a Republican who plans to vote for Obama in November. But as images of his unorthodox greeting for the president went viral, the pizzeria owner was swept up into a political firestorm, going from a mere two reviews on the online restaurant rating site Yelp to more than 3,000 comments. Some of them supportive, but others were harsh.
A picture of Van Duzer lifting Obama remains on the restaurant’s Yelp profile page. Van Duzer told The Daily Beast: “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and you don’t have to be ugly with yours.”

You can get in trouble for not serving the candidate.

Photo: Denver Post/Helen H. Richardson
When Denver restaurant Rosa Linda Mexican Cafe refused to host a campaign stop for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate’s supporters not only promised to boycott but sent death threats and have called and emailed racial epithets to the restaurant.
Oscar Aguirre, who owns the cafe along with his parents, said the family does not have allegiances to either of the nation’s two major political parties. “We did say ‘no’ because we are not Republicans, nor are we Democrats. We will welcome any sitting president of the United States. But, we did not want to be a campaign stop,” Aguirre said.

You can get in trouble for criticizing a candidate’s policies.


Papa John’s founder, chairman, and CEO John Schnatter signs a crew hat for Deondre Jones in Burbank, Ill./ AP Photo

Twitter users pushed a boycott of the Papa John’s fast food pizza chain because of comments CEO John Schnatter made during a conference call with reporters and analysts to discuss the chain’s 2012 second-quarter results, projecting a cost increase for pizzas because of Obamacare implementation.
“Our best estimate is that the Obamacare will cost about 11 to 14 cents per pizza – or 15 or 20 cents per order from a corporate basis. To put that in perspective, our average delivery charge is $1.75 to $2.50 – or about 10-fold our estimated cost of the Obamacare to Papa John’s. We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry. But our business model and unit economics (are) about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare.”

You can get in trouble for having a political position.

(AP Photo/David Tulis)
Gay rights and same-sex marriage activists held “kiss-ins” at Chick-fil-A chain restaurants across the country after the company President and COO Dan Cathy shared his views on the definition of family in an interview with The Baptist Press. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Cathy’s remarks came on the heels of President Obama saying in an interview with the ABC television network that same-sex marriage should be legal and of his administration ending the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.
But Cathy did not face political backlash alone. Former Arkansas Gov. and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee set up a Facebook page and called on consumers who shared Cathy’s views to show up and patronize restaurants near them during what he dubbed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” 

But you can also profit for brushing off a candidate.

Kelly and Chris McMurray (right), owner-operators of Crumb & Get It Cookie Company/ AP Photo
Chris McMurray, owner of the Crumb and Get It bakery in Radford, Va., turned down a photo opportunity with Vice President Joe Biden, the president’s running mate for a second term, and it turned out to be a great move for business. McMurray said he didn’t agree with the Obama administration’s policies. 
“I have a difference of opinion than the folks in that campaign and that’s just what it was. Also, taking a stance in my faith, faith in God. Anyway, the response has been wonderful. We’ve been really well-supported, lots of kind calls,” he said. 
The bakery had only been open three months and ran out of everything but ice cream the week of Biden’s visit to Virginia.
Biden was welcomed, however, by two other Radford businesses: River City Grill and Cosmetic and Family Dentistry.