Cerabino: Mar-a-Lago comes to mind as Trump blasts Virginia restaurant


President Donald Trump’s words have invited a comparison between his Palm Beach private club and a small restaurant in rural Virginia.

Trump probably wasn’t thinking of the big picture. As usual, he was in retaliatory Twitter mode on Monday morning when he took on the Red Hen, a 26-seat restaurant in the Shenandoah Valley, because the restaurant owner there refused to serve his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when she showed up unannounced for dinner over the weekend.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” restaurant owner Stephanie Wilkinson later explained to The Washington Post. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive.”

But her staff said they didn’t want to serve Sanders because she advocated positions they found indefensible. So Wilkinson decided to tell Sanders that the restaurant wouldn’t serve her.

FULL COVERAGE: Trump in Palm Beach

“This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals,” Wilkinson explained.

This denial of service turned into a heated debate on social media, and Trump joined in on Monday.

“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.” Trump tweeted. “I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”

American presidents don’t usually single out small private businesses for a cleanliness attack, especially one with no violations from its latest state health inspection in February.

And especially a president whose own Palm Beach private club has a well-documented history of health inspection issues.

Like I said, Trump probably wasn’t thinking.

So it’s time for a little Red Hen vs. Mar-a-Lago comparisons:

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Number of health inspection flaws over past three years:

Red Hen: 1

Mar-a-Lago: 78

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What state health inspectors found

Red Hen: “Observed pickles/jams in a hermetically sealed container is not from an approved processing plant. Operator stated that jars were for decorative use only. Operator will take jars home.”

Mar-a-Lago: “Accumulation of black/green mold-like substance” in ice machine; dirty cutting boards; hot dogs stored on the floor of walk-in freezer. “Hot water not provided/shut off at employee handwash sink.”

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Pats on the back from health inspectors?

Red Hen: “Observed good food/unit temperatures. Staff had clean uniforms/aprons and line cook had hair restrained. Excellent job code-dating.”

Mar-a-Lago:“Violations require further review, but are not an immediate threat to the public.”

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Try the fish?

Red Hen: The trout is served with parsnip puree, Swiss chard and heirloom tomatoes.

Mar-a-Lago: The salmon is no longer served without undergoing “proper parasite destruction.”

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Operating philosophy

Red Hen: Farm to table.

Mar-a-Lago: Access to president.

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Pricey items to consider

Red Hen: Pan seared pork chops with cheese grits and caramelized onions entree — $28.

Mar-a-Lago: Initiation fee — $200,000.

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The labor force

Red Hen: Locals from a town of about 7,000 people.

Mar-a-Lago: Foreign workers imported under the H2B temporary worker visa program.

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Owner’s view on handling unwanted arrivals 

Red Hen: “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation,” Wilkinson said she told Sanders. “I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’”

Mar-a-Lago: “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.”



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